How do you know if your child needs a laser frenectomy for the treatment of a tongue or lip tie?

At South Davis Pediatric Dentistry, every day, we have parents who come to us with questions about lip and tongue tie treatment. We’ve put together this detailed information to help you better understand lip ties and tongue ties and whether a CO2 laser frenectomy may be right for your child.

How Can an Untreated Lip or Tongue Tie Affect My Child?

It doesn’t matter if your child is a newborn, toddler, or adolescent, research shows that a restricted upper lip and/or tongue tie that inhibits the full mobility of upper lip or the proper resting position of the tongue on the roof of the mouth can lead to several different health and dental issues. Some of the problems that may be caused by a tongue or lip tie include, but are not limited to:

  • Narrow plate
  • Dental malocclusion
  • Restricted mid-face/maxillary growth
  • Sleep-disordered breathing or sleep apnea
  • Difficulty eating or breastfeeding
  • Digestive troubles such as reflux
  • Speech difficulties

As a parent, it’s important that you become educated and know what to look for in order to identify the presence of lip and tongue ties, and the potential impact such conditions may have on your child’s health and growth if left untreated or undiagnosed. When indicated, a frenectomy procedure may serve as a simple and straightforward solution to promote optimal sleep, health, growth, and development for your child.

What is a Frenectomy?

Removal of the connective tissue (which is known as the frenum) from either under the tongue or the upper gums is called a frenectomy. At South Davis Pediatric Dentistry, there are two types of routine laser frenectomies we perform:

  • Lingual Frenectomy. Also known as a tongue tie release, the removal of connective tissue from the underside of the tongue that connects to the floor of the mouth is called a lingual frenectomy. This procedure is used in the correction of a condition known as Ankyloglossia, or tongue tie, which refers to a tight, short, and thick frenum under the tongue which limits its mobility. In an infant, a tongue tie makes it difficult to breastfeed and latch properly. In children and adults, it can impact speech and eating habits. Furthermore, other orthodontic issues can result from a tongue tie as patients try to compensate for their lack of full tongue mobility by changing their jaw position.
  • Labial Frenectomy. Also known as a lip tie release, the removal of the connective tissue that goes from the upper gums above the front two teeth to the lip is called a labial frenectomy. Everyone has this piece of connective tissue, but when it’s short, tight, or large, it can create what’s known as a lip tie and can affect a newborn’s ability to flare out or curl their lips which can create problems latching on during breastfeeding. As a child grows, an untreated lip tie can push apart the front two teeth which can cause a gap and require orthodontic treatment when they are older and permanent teeth come in.

When is a Frenectomy Needed?

Patients and parents choose frenectomies for a variety of reasons and at different ages.

When it comes to the treatment of an infant lip tie or tongue tie, the decision for the child to have a laser frenectomy is often made due to problems with breastfeeding and bottle-feeding. Tongue or lip tie symptoms in an infant include:

  • Prolonged breastfeeding
  • Difficulty latching onto the breast which results in sore nipples for the mother
  • Excessive gassiness
  • Frequent spit up or reflux

In toddlers and young children who have a lip tie or tongue tie, they may present with the following:

  • A gap between the front teeth
  • Speech impediments and difficulties with annunciation
  • Jaw pain
  • Eating problems

While some parents may not be concerned about a gap in the teeth from a purely aesthetic perspective and they feel it just means that the child will need braces, braces are advised only when the child’s permanent teeth have developed. If the gap remains even after the course of braces, a labial frenectomy may be advised. On the other hand, sometimes the emergence of permanent teeth will effectively close the gap that was caused by the labial frenum’s length. Another consideration is that a long or short frenum can also cause tooth or jaw misalignment, and therefore the patient may benefit from a frenectomy.

With a patient who has a short lingual frenum, they may push out their lower jaw to compensate for the lack of movement and to help with the problems they experience with eating or speaking. This overcompensation can result in constant jaw pain and lead to the development of an underbite. When a patient has an elongated frenum, they may not be able to extend their tongue normally, and they may have discomfort and difficulty swallowing.

The Importance of Identifying a Tongue or Lip Tie in Your Child

Pediatricians and general dentists do not always notice a tongue or lip tie during their routine checkups. For some children, the condition may not be identified until they reach pre-kindergarten or elementary school. This is unfortunate because a laser frenectomy can be performed with minimal pain during the first few weeks after birth.

For this reason, it is so important that parents are aware of these abnormal conditions of the frenum inside the mouth and the effect they can have on a child’s general health and growth and development.

Frenectomies can have a huge impact on the patient’s quality of life, whether it’s by promoting the bonding that occurs between a mother and an infant during breastfeeding or bottle-feeding or ensuring that a patient’s newly straightened teeth stay that way.

What Does a CO2 Laser Frenectomy Involve?

At South Davis Pediatric Dentistry, we offer a holistic approach to pediatric dental treatment. If it’s discovered that your child is tongue tied or lip tied and can benefit from a laser frenectomy, we can perform the procedure in a simple and straightforward manner, usually in a one-day office visit.

Traditionally, frenectomies were performed with either scissors or a scalpel and sedation was used and sutures were needed. Not anymore.

We are leading the way into the future of pediatric dentistry by using a state-of-art CO2 laser tool known as the LightScalpel. By using this advanced laser frenectomy equipment, there is little to no bleeding involved, and the recovery time is usually a very short couple of weeks. Learn more about our laser frenectomies on our services page, or give us a call today at (801) 294-8880.