Tongue-Tie/Lip -Tie Surgery (Frenulectomy/Frenectomy)
The connective tissue providing proper movement of the lips and tongue is called the frenulum. There are frenum in several places in the human body. There are two key locations in the mouth:
- Between the upper lip and the upper gum (maxillary labial frenum)
- Between the tongue and the bottom of your mouth (lingual frenum)
In the womb, typically the frenum will thin and recede, allowing proper movement of the mouth, lips, and tongue. Unfortunately for some people, the frenum does not develop properly. In these cases, the frenum may remain thick, or especially tight, restricting movement of the lips, tongue, and mouth. This lack of development can result in a lip-tie or tongue-tie.
When the frenum is limiting growth or mobility, your doctor may recommend having surgery to restore proper function. The surgery is called a frenulectomy or frenectomy, but is more commonly referred to as lip or tongue-tie surgery.
A tongue-tie is caused by a tight and/or short frenulum. Having a tongue-tie limits the use and movement of the tongue. When a tongue is tied down, it cannot reach the palate, and has a limited range of motion. During normal swallowing, breathing, and breastfeeding, the tongue pushes on the jaws. Proper pressure and range of the tongue pushes and shapes the jaws, supporting proper development. Having a tongue-tie limits this growth and development. Early diagnosis is important in getting development back on track, and preventing further complications.
- Difficulty nursing/breastfeeding
- Difficulty sticking tongue out
- Slow/picky/fussy/messy eating
- Notched or heart-shaped tongue
- Difficulty lifting the tongue or moving the tongue from side to side
- Challenges with oral activities, such as licking the lips, kissing, or playing an instrument
- Difficulty sweeping food debris from the mouth
- Speech impairment
- Neck pain
If you lift your upper lip, you will see your frenulum. A frenulum becomes a lip-tie when the labial frenulum (the tissue attaching the upper lip to the gums right above the front two teeth) is very tight and/or thick. Having a lip-tie makes it more difficult to move the upper lip, and limits mobility. This condition is not difficult to spot, and is simple to treat with the help of a professional.
- Struggling to latch onto the breast
- Difficulty breathing during breastfeeding
- Making a clicking sound during nursing
- Improper seal while nursing
- Slow weight gain
- Gap between upper front teeth (diastema)
- Speech difficulties
- Tooth decay
- Inability to clear mouth properly
Babies, children, and adults can benefit from having tongue/lip-tie surgery. In some cases, a doctor may recommend having a newborn baby’s abnormal frenulum corrected before being discharged from the hospital. Typically, frenulum problems are misdiagnosed early in childhood through feeding or speech issues. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a child with a tongue or lip-tie to reach adulthood without receiving any treatment, even when restricted mobility has caused other medical problems.
When a lip or tongue-tie is left untreated…
- Limited jaw growth
- Altered or limited development of dental arches
- Crowded teeth
- Limited orofacial muscle movement
- Improper swallowing
- Mouth breathing (open mouth resting posture)
- Inadequate lip seal
- Airway constriction
- Sinus congestion
- Deep or over closed bite
- Gum (gingival) recession
- Enlarged tonsils
When left untreated, a lip or tongue tie can cause a variety of more serious (and costly) symptoms, including:
- Improved nutrition and weight gain for infants previously struggling with weight gain
- Improved speech
- Freedom of tongue and jaw movement
- Improved appearance/boost self confidence
- Improved oral health
- Reduced pain/discomfort
- Improve bite function
- Promotes growth and development of jaws and palate
- Better breathing
- Closed mouth resting posture
Though referred to as a “surgery,” a frenulectomy is a common and minimally invasive procedure. Local anesthetic is used to numb the area, reducing discomfort during the procedure. When the area is numb, the doctor will modify the frenulum tissue using a special light known as a laser. This laser instantly sterilizes the area, which lessens the chance of infection and shortens the healing process. A few sutures may then be placed, depending on the severity of the case. The process typically takes between 15-30 minutes from start to finish.
We primarily serve Rockville, North Bethesda, Silver Spring, Wheaton, Potomac, Washington DC, Gaithersburg, Kensington, Germantown, Burtonsville, Laurel, Columbia and Northern Virginia (Mclean, Tysons Corner, Great Falls, Arlington ) but people travel from all over the country for our specialty and holistic dental services.