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Laser and Tongue Tie Procedures

What is a tongue-tie?

The tongue is connected to the floor of the mouth by a band of tissue called the lingual frenulum. When this tissue interferes with normal tongue function, it is referred to as a tongue-tie, or symptomatic ankyloglossia.

What kinds of problems are caused by tongue-tie?

Free movement of the tongue is the key to a successful nursing latch. When tongue movement is restricted, it can adversely affect breastfeeding. Symptoms include:

  • Baby: poor or shallow latch, poor seal, dribbling or clicking, excessive air intake, chewing of the nipple, poor weight gain or failure to thrive, frequent or extended feedings, falling asleep while nursing, colic-like symptoms, reflux, or inability to hold a bottle or pacifier.
  • Nursing Mom: pain while feeding, nipple pain or damage, compromised milk supply, or trouble bonding with baby.

How is tongue-tie identified?

An anterior tongue can be obvious, where the band of tissue is attached to the tip of the tongue. However, a posterior tongue-tie may not be as obvious, and is diagnosed based on an oral exam and history of symptoms.

How is a tongue-tie treated?

A tongue-tie is corrected with a simple procedure called a frenectomy, where the frenulum is released to allow proper movement of the tongue. A special laser is used to quickly and efficiently release the tissue, with minimum discomfort and no bleeding. No sedation or local anesthetic is required, and post-operative pain is very minimal. Nursing moms are encouraged to breastfeed after the procedure, and most report immediate and sometimes dramatic improvements. Healing occurs in a couple weeks, and at-home exercises will be prescribed to prevent relapse.

Should tongue-tie always be treated?

Treatment is recommended only if symptomatic. However, symptoms can appear at all ages, from feeding to swallowing to speech, and should be treated appropriately.

Why is it so important to seek treatment immediately?

The added difficulty and frustration of breastfeeding a tongue-tied infant cause many women to give up nursing altogether. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children be breast fed for at least 12 months. Correcting the tongue-tie can help alleviate the symptoms listed above, and hopefully lead to a successful and enjoyable breastfeeding experience.

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