An oral frenum or frenulum is a small band of tissue that can be found on or under the tongue, between the top lip and the upper gums, or the lower lip and lower gums. If this band of tissue is too tight or too thick, it is known as a tongue or lip tie, depending on the location. A tongue or lip tie is formed during early fetal development. While some infants with a minor tongue or lip tie may be able to feed without issues, a corrective procedure called a frenectomy may be recommended if a tongue or lip tie is affecting an infant’s ability to feed, a mother’s ability to breastfeed, or both.
Painful and ineffective breastfeeding is the earliest sign of a tongue or lip tie. An ineffective latch happens because the infant is unable to fully flip their lip out and/or the restricted tongue movement means it is difficult to draw out the milk. Ineffective feeding can lead to fussiness and poor weight gain for the infant. A frenectomy is a safe and minimally invasive procedure for infants that not only corrects feeding issues but prevents future problems.
An uncorrected tongue or lip tie can affect many parts of a child’s development as they grow. Speech and development may be affected. An undeveloped jaw structure can be a troublesome complication if a tied tongue is unable to rest in its proper position. In addition, there is a higher probability of the child requiring braces at some point or experiencing potential breathing issues.
Correcting a tongue or lip tie is a quick and minimally invasive procedure. A laser is used to release the tie. Anesthesia is not used in infants and immediate feeding after the procedure is allowed. For older patients, numbing medication may be used.
The treated area will look white and gray after the procedure. This is completely normal. Stretching exercises will be provided as an important part of aftercare and will help the mouth heal properly. Infants will need the area massaged with a clean finger before every feeding for the next one to two weeks. The baby’s latch may need retraining to flip out the upper lip during a feed.
It is very rare to experience a complication from a frenectomy. If your child is experiencing prolonged bleeding, infection, or damage to the nearby structures following their frenectomy procedure, please call our office right away.