Tongue & Lip Ties
Tongue/Lip Tie Release or Frenectomy
What is a Tongue/ Lip Tie Release or Frenectomy?
A frenectomy is the removal of a band of tissue, known as the frenum or frenulum. The labial frenum connects the upper lip to the upper gums. The lingual frenulum connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth.
Evaluation Procedure Recovery
The only way to identify the posterior tongue-tie is by looking in the mouth. It will take two people to do this, at least one who the baby knows and trusts.
- The first person—who the baby knows best—should hold the baby in his or her lap so that baby and adult are facing each other. The adult should be in the baby’s line of sight during the entire evaluation.
- Have the first person lay the baby’s head into the second person’s lap so that the baby is facing upwards.
- Do not forcefully enter the baby’s mouth.
- Tap his or her chin and wait until she opens her mouth and allows you to enter.
- After the baby has opened his or her mouth, insert one index finger into the baby’s mouth and then the other, with one on each side of the tongue.
- Put one finger under the tongue on each side.
- Press your fingers slightly deeper into the tissue under the tongue and then lift the tongue toward the roof of the mouth.
- If there is a posterior tongue-tie, it will appear as a white, fibrous band in between your fingers with restricted upward mobility.
If you think you have identified a tongue-tie in your child, we suggest an immediate appointment. Our office keeps open appointment space for the express purpose of releasing ties at short notice.
Frenectomy is the medical term for the procedure that releases the lip tie or tongue tie. A frenectomy is a simple and straightforward in-office surgical procedure performed in a few minutes without the need of anesthesia. This short animated video shows and explains the procedure.
A successful procedure is one where all of the symptoms that the mom and baby were experiencing completely disappear by the end of the healing time. When we release a tie we expect the frenulum to reform. As your dental expert, our goal is that the frenulum will reform in a way that allows for greater mobility of the tongue or lip.
Immediately after the tongue and lip are revised, you will be able to see a diamond shaped wound. This wound is what allows for more mobility. We do not want the top and bottom of the triangle to attach to each other, which would result in a short, tight frenulum and little to no change. Our goal is that the sides will heal together and form a new frenulum that is long and gives the tongue or lip adequate mobility.
During the first 48 hours after the procedure, the diamonds will turn white, yellow and greenish; this is what a wound that is healing in the mouth looks like.
Stretching Exercises to Facilitate Healing
In order to facilitate proper healing following a frenectomy, we strongly recommend a regimen of stretches. We suggest five sets of stretches during waking hours and one during the night.
As the wound heals, scar tissue will grow into the revision site to reform the frenulum. This is normal. The purpose of the stretches is to get this tissue to reform differently: long and further back along the tongue than it was before. If stretches aren’t done, there is a high likelihood that tongue will form a short frenulum again, which may require another procedure.
The healing process can feel like a rollercoaster ride. When your little one is returned to you right after the procedure you may or may not notice any difference in how breastfeeding goes. The most common thing I hear from moms is that their little one seemed confused and “it felt different”. Often it’s not painful in the way it was previously. Don’t be surprised if the latch right after the procedure is the best latch you have for a few days. It may get worse before it gets better. Some babies do well to be stretched right before breastfeeding, others will need to be stretched after. If your baby refuses to nurse, mix things up. I most often see a turning point in how well breastfeeding is going around the two-week mark.
Be strong and diligent; the benefits are worth the initial effort! Over time, the diamond under the lip and tongue will start to look more and more like a normal frenulum but this is normal.
For some babies, releasing the frenulum is only part of the picture. The baby may need help relearning how to use her “new mouth.” This team is often made up of a lactation consultant, your pediatrician, your frenectomy provider, and a body work provider. Working with the other members in your team will help get you the rest of the way to success.
Healing: What is Abnormal?
Many parents ask how they will know if the site becomes infected. One of the wonderful aspects of the laser is that it sterilizes the wound as it makes it by vaporizing anything it touches. As the healing process progresses, the biggest sign of an infection would actually be if your little one develops a fever. If this happens, call us right away.
Finally, if either mother or baby’s symptoms return, or the baby is unable (not just temporarily unwilling) to eat from either breast or bottle, please contact us.
Why would the tongue or lip need to be revised again?
Sadly, some baby’s have to have their lip or tongue released multiple times. Our goal with a frenectomy is to ensure that the first release is the only release. There are two factors that affect the final mobility and therefore success for your little one. The first problem arises from an incomplete release of the ties. Many babies are only having their anterior tongue ties released. For most babies, this won’t be enough. If the posterior tongue tie is not released, your little one won’t have the proper upwards mobility of their tongue.
The other problem arises from improper wound management after a release. If the lip or tongue heals improperly, they won’t have proper mobility. Post-op stretches are key to ensuring proper healing.
For more information about Tongue/Lip Tie Release Procedures or to set an appointment to discuss your situation, contact us at 303.797.0832.
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