Some infants are born with an oral condition called tongue-tie. A tongue-tie occurs when the “lingual frenulum,” or tight band of tissue under the tongue, remains affixed to the bottom of the tongue, making it stick to the floor of the mouth. Tongue-tied babies sometimes have trouble breastfeeding, eating, swallowing, and – later on – speaking. Lactation consultants or occupational therapists helping new mothers with breastfeeding often discover that tongue-tie is part of the problem.Thankfully, tongue-tie is easily treatable.
Our dentists are trained in a pain-free, sedation-free, and quick tongue-tie release laser surgery procedure, using the state-of-the-art LightScapel CO2 laser. We recently performed a surgery on a 5-month old tongue-tied baby girl. Her mother Julia agreed to share her story to help inform other parents and families with similar challenges.
Determining the Problem: Tongue-Tie Baby and Difficult Breastfeeding
Julia became aware of pain in her breast when her daughter was about a month old. “First, I didn’t know what the problem was. When I first started trying to breastfeed her, she latched fine. I had breastfed my son and recalled the initial couple of weeks of painful latching. I guess I was accustomed to painful breastfeeding. I thought that the pain was from improper feeding or improper latch.”
Julia had, in fact, developed mastitis (a painful breast tissue infection). It was so painful, she decided to meet with a lactation consultant and occupational therapist (OT) to get relief. “The OT soon thought that my daughter had tongue-tie. She first brought up the possibility of tongue-tie surgery. At the time though, the OT felt that in order for my daughter to benefit the most from the surgery, she would have to learn how to bottlefeed.”
At around 10 weeks, Julia began working with the OT on bottlefeeding. Julia recalled: “we had zero success…just complete bottle refusal.” Fortunately, as is often the case, Julia found that her daughter had adapted to the way her mouth worked with the tongue-tie. She figured out how to work around it to breastfeed with some success and was not terribly interested in the bottle.
But Julia was going back to work soon. She needed to get her daughter bottlefeeding – so they continued trying. Thankfully once at daycare, her daughter had more success with bottlefeeding. “I honestly think she was really just figuring out ways to work around the tongue-tie… more of a band-aid approach”.
Making the Decision to Have Surgery
At 5 months, Julia and her daughter were no longer having significant feeding issues. But Julia was worried about the potential issues her daughter’s condition might cause in the future.
Jess at Newtown Dentistry gave her a comprehensive book on tongue-tie that really helped Julia put it in perspective. “I read that book and got a deeper look into what some of my daughter’s issues might be down the line. In the future, I didn’t want to have any issues with delays. We had been slowly starting solids, and she was a little bit slower to ramp up on the solids.”
Julia had done her homework. She met with lactation consultants, occupational therapists, and pediatric dentists – all who recommended surgery.
Regarding the decision to do the surgery, “it’s obviously a difficult decision to make. I didn’t want to put my baby in pain, even for a second. But as any parent, I wanted to do the right thing for her. I felt that I had the best information that I could get after seeing multiple consultants who all recommended the same thing. It just felt like the surgery was the best decision for myself and for my daughter.”
Once Julia decided to have the surgery at Newtown, she took comfort in the knowledge that Newtown’s experience and reputation for success was not only beyond reproach – but truly kid friendly. “My son had been a patient there, and I had always been extremely happy with how professional and welcoming they are to children and parents. It’s a really easy environment for the kids. And the staff has always been absolutely wonderful. Awesome.”
Safe, Quick Surgery
The procedure “was super quick. I wasn’t physically with her when she got the procedure, so it did feel like a long time from a mother’s perspective. But in actual time, it was probably only about two minutes. Everyone was super sweet. They were very motherly toward my daughter through the procedure. From what I gathered, there was really little to no pain for her during the surgery.” Her daughter did not experience any pain post-surgery either. Her daughter’s only complaint: having someone’s hands in her mouth during the post-surgery stretches.
Positive Results: Successful Breastfeeding And Eating Solids
Immediately after surgery in Newtown’s offices, Julia breastfed her daughter. “After she fed, she was completely fine. She was happy. We left the office and had zero issues after that. She started solids a couple weeks after the procedure and is doing really well with them.” One month later, Julia reports that her daughter is breastfeeding more efficiently, comfortably, and happily since the surgery.
Julia’s Thoughts to Parents
Julia shared that, in her opinion, “there’s really no downside to having the tongue-tie procedure. For any parents that are on the fence, it’s almost better to err on the side of caution. If you think there is potential for challenges with breast- or bottlefeeding or eating solids, or developing proper speech down the line, be proactive in the beginning. I’m so happy I made the decision.”
“As far as Newtown Dentistry, I don’t live close to the practice anymore. I drive over an hour to go there – that’s how great a place it is. I’m a very happy Newtown Mom!”
From everyone at Newtown – and anybody who might be experiencing challenges with their tongue-tied babies – we thank you Julia for sharing your success story. We want to add that, though tongue-tied is most prevalent in infants, some adults can also develop difficulties with it. An adult patient of ours recently shared that “I’ve experienced acid reflux and TMJ issues for most of my life. Getting my tongue released provided immediate relief. I wish I had done the procedure sooner.”
Newtown Dentistry has helped many children with tongue-tie. If your child is having difficulties related to tongue-tie, please contact us so we can get you and your child the relief you both need.