A frenectomy (also known as a frenuloplasty, frenulectomy, frenulotomy or frenotomy) is the removal of a frenulum, which are soft tissues attached to the muscles of the cheeks and lips.
When an upper frenum is attached too high on the gums, it can causing recession or spaces between teeth and when a lower frenum is attached too close to the end of the tongue, it can cause speech impediments. This is sometimes referred to as being “tongue-tied” or as “ankyloglossia”.
"A frenectomy is a simple surgical procedure where either part or all of the frenum in question is clipped or removed in order to restore a healthy balance to the mouth. There are two ways to do this: a local anesthetic and a surgical incision or with the use of a special dental laser."
—Dr. Ted Reese
Breastfeeding is a crucial and special bonding experience between a mother and her baby. However, in some cases, challenges can arise due to lip and tongue ties. These conditions, known as ankyloglossia (tongue tie) and labial frenulum (lip tie), can significantly impact a baby's ability to nurse effectively. In this section, we will explore how lip and tongue ties can affect breastfeeding and discuss the symptoms that a child with these conditions may exhibit.
A lip tie refers to an abnormal attachment of the upper lip to the gum tissue. It occurs when the frenulum, the thin membrane connecting the lip to the gums, is tight or extends too far down the gum line. This restricted mobility can impede the baby's ability to latch onto the breast properly, leading to several symptoms:
Difficulty latching: Babies with a lip tie may struggle to achieve a deep latch. They may have difficulty flanging their upper lip outward, which is necessary for a secure and effective latch.
Poor suction: A tight lip tie can hinder the baby's ability to create and maintain suction while breastfeeding. This can result in inadequate milk transfer and frequent feeding sessions.
Clicking noises: Due to a weak seal and improper latch, clicking sounds during breastfeeding are common in babies with a lip tie. This clicking noise indicates that the baby is not maintaining a consistent latch.
Insufficient weight gain: Inadequate milk transfer caused by a lip tie can lead to slow weight gain or weight loss in the baby. Frequent nursing attempts and poor feeding efficiency can contribute to this symptom.
Tongue tie occurs when the frenulum, the tissue that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth, is short, tight, or extends too far towards the tip of the tongue. This condition restricts the tongue's range of motion and can pose challenges during breastfeeding. Here are some common symptoms of tongue tie:
Difficulty latching: A baby with a tongue tie may struggle to latch onto the breast deeply. The restricted movement of the tongue can prevent the baby from properly cupping the breast and achieving a comfortable and effective latch.
Ineffective sucking: Tongue tie can hinder the baby's ability to create a vacuum seal and maintain suction while nursing. As a result, the baby may have a weak or inefficient suck, leading to inadequate milk transfer.
Frequent feedings and prolonged nursing sessions: Babies with tongue tie often need to nurse for longer durations to extract enough milk. The reduced efficiency in transferring milk can lead to more frequent feedings, causing the baby to be fussy and unsatisfied.
A soft-tissue/diode laser is used for soft tissue or gum tissue needs such as in the case of the frenum. It can replace the need for scalpels and incisions which allows for a more controlled healing response and surgical correction. Read more benefits of laser dentistry.
A child with shortened connections between the tongue and floor of the mouth will most likely experience several difficulties in breastfeeding. This can range from poor latch to sore nipples to continual feeding cycles. Several studies have been conducted and proved to show an improvement in breastfeeding once a frenectomy was performed on the infant. This simple surgery takes less than five minutes and causes little to no pain or complications thereafter. Read more about the studies involved and post-op care for the child.
The procedure is usually performed with a local anesthetic and can involve either clipping or the use of a special laser, which causes little or no bleeding because the laser seals the ends of the blood vessels in the area as it cuts. The laser also will seal nerve endings, reducing pain after the procedure. However, laser treatment does take longer than simply anesthetizing and clipping so patients will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis with the mother to ensure the best treatment for the child. There is also a private waiting room in the back of our office for you and your family to wait and nurse in private if you prefer to do that before or after the procedure.