Did you know that the tongue has over 57 muscles and is classified as an organ? Like any other organ, when the tongue isn’t functioning properly, it can lead to a variety of health issues that range from simple to complex. One example of this is tongue and lip ties. Tongue-tie, or ankyloglossia, occurs when the tissue between the undersurface of the tongue and the floor of the mouth interferes with the normal movement of the tongue, restricting its normal range of motion. Among other things, this can adversely affect breastfeeding. That’s why our office offers laser frenectomies with Dr. Ford Gatgens!
Here at Accent Smile Center, we regularly see infants who have symptoms commonly associated with a tongue-tie. These babies may:
- be unable to latch properly
- have difficulties staying latched on
- splutter and choke
- have constant feeds that are short in duration
- gain weight poorly or slowly
- develop jaundice
- fuss at the breast
- develop colic
Infants aren’t the only ones affected by a tongue or lip tie. Symptoms we often observe in the mothers of tongue-tied babies include:
- pain during feeding
- engorgement, blocked ducts, and mastitis due to ineffective milk removal
- low milk supply due to ineffective milk removal
- oversupply if baby compensates for not being able to breastfeed well by nursing very frequently
- tiredness, frustration, and discouragement.
- a premature end to the breastfeeding relationship
When left untreated, tongue-ties can affect a child’s ability to speak, chew, swallow, and breathe normally as they grow. They can also cause gaps between teeth as well as gum recession.
Dr. Ford Gatgens is no stranger to these challenges. His first lip and tongue release using laser treatment was performed on his very own son, Charlie! This procedure is referred to as a frenectomy. After his issues were resolved, Charlie was able to eat successfully and his acid reflux greatly decreased. He’s now a healthy and thriving toddler!
At Accent Smile Center, we believe that the most successful approach to correcting a tongue or lip tie is a group effort that includes:
- a dental specialist like Dr. Gatgens, to perform a frenectomy and manage the healing in a way that maximizes the mobility of the lip and/or tongue
- an IBCLC or other qualified lactation consultant who can help babies establish a better latch and improve their sucking skills
- a physical therapist to help resolve muscle tension, which can inhibit both the latch and proper wound healing
This multidisciplinary approach can dramatically improve breastfeeding comfort and efficiency for both mother and baby. Let’s take a closer look at what a frenectomy is and how it’s performed!
What you can expect from a frenectomy with Accent Smile Center
During the patient’s initial consultation, Dr. Gatgens will evaluate the current symptoms and conditions that mother and baby are experiencing. Our team will take several photos in order to diagnose the tongue-tie or lip-tie classification. We’ll then outline the process from beginning to end, including aftercare. There is a two-week postoperative care program and we will ensure parents understand this before moving forward.
During the actual procedure, the infant will be swaddled and held still while Dr. Gatgens uses the laser to divide the frenulum. This will only take a minute or two, and there is very little discomfort. Some babies even sleep through it! There is almost no bleeding, and because lasers sterilize, there is less risk of infection. Lasers also stimulate bio-regeneration and healing, so the wound will generally heal beautifully with minimal chances of a relapse occurring. The result is beautiful tissue, less chance of relapse.
Immediately after the laser release is performed, we allow time for the baby and mother to feed. There are many benefits to this, but it’s especially useful in preventing oral aversion in the baby. To ensure everything is healing well, we’ll follow up with a two-week postoperative appointment to evaluate the baby. We’ll also discuss any improvement in the symptoms with the mother at this time.
Laser treatment versus conventional treatments for tongue-ties
With a traditional frenectomy, the tongue is lifted and a healthcare professional will divide the frenulum by cutting it with a pair of round-ended sterile scissors or by cauterising it. Laser energy is much gentler on the tissue, and there are no stitches or sutures required. Healing tends to be much easier and faster as well!
When we perform a laser frenectomy, numbing is not necessary. As noted above, this allows the baby to properly feed immediately after the procedure. Often, the breast milk itself acts as an analgesic.
Dr. Ford Gatgens is your local laser dentistry specialist
When it comes to lasers, Dr. Gatgens has gone above and beyond in his training. He has taken many hours of continuing education in the laser field, completed many tests on laser dentistry, and presented specific laser cases as well as completing an oral examination. This earned him a fellowship in the World Clinical Laser Institute (WCLI) and a fellowship/standard proficiency in the Academy of Laser Dentistry (ALD).
Tongue and lip ties can affect everything from a baby’s teething and feeding to their dental growth and development long-term. By properly diagnosing and releasing lip and tongue ties using laser technology, our expert team gives infants the best chance for success as they grow!
Accent Smile Center takes a “whole mouth, whole child” approach to dentistry. We know that the tongue, gums, and other oral tissue play a significant role in the health of a patient’s teeth and jaws. By treating the entire mouth, Dr. Gatgens is able to ensure the most positive dental outcomes.
Frenectomies are an important part of our practice, and we’re proud to offer the safest, most comfortable treatment options for patients of all ages. If you suspect your infant or child could have a tongue or lip tie, we’ll be happy to walk you through your options. In many cases, we can do treatment the same day you have your consultation. Get in touch today to learn more!