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Frenulectomy or frenectomy is the name of a procedure that is performed to correct ankyloglossia (tongue-tie). The effect of tongue-tie on a child’s ability to breastfeed and develop proper speech patterns has been a subject of much debate among the medical community. In our practice, we believe it is important to assess each child individually before recommending a course of treatment for tongue-tie. When we feel it will be beneficial, we may recommend frenulectomy to correct tongue-tie.
Ankyloglossia occurs when the lingual frenulum (the tiny piece of tissue that that attaches the bottom of the tongue to the floor of the mouth) fails to separate during embryological development. Tongue-tie is present at birth and may resolve on its own over time. In some cases, however, ankyloglossia causes severe feeding problems and so the condition is better addressed immediately.
Ankyloglossia is most often identified in newborns when the mother and child are experiencing problems with breastfeeding. A tongue-tie can prevent the newborn from latching onto the breast correctly, leading to poor weight gain and severe pain to the mother while feeding her child. Tongue-ties are less likely to cause problems for babies that are bottle-fed because the sucking mechanism involved in bottle-feeding is different. If Dr. Dyson diagnoses tongue-tie, he will present two options to the parents: wait and see if the lingual frenulum separates naturally or perform frenectomy.
It is vital that newborns gain weight quickly after birth. This contributes to proper brain development and sets the stage for a healthy life. If tongue-tie is preventing the infant from eating well, then a simple frenectomy may be the best way to quickly correct the problem. There are few disadvantages to performing the procedure and most babies are able to breastfeed well immediately afterwards. Performing frenulectomy on an infant also ensures that the child’s speech will develop properly. If a parent chooses the “wait and see” option and the tongue-tie does not resolve naturally, then the child may need to undergo frenectomy when they are older, which may be more traumatic and painful.
The majority of tongue-ties are diagnosed just after birth when feeding difficulties arise. If a tongue-tie was not diagnosed and/or corrected when the child was an infant, then certain symptoms may be become apparent during childhood or adulthood. Classic signs and symptoms of ankyloglossia include:
Frenulectomy is a relatively simple surgical procedure. Dr. Dyson performs the procedure in his office without anesthesia. After carefully examining the lingual frenulum, Dr. Dyson simply snips the frenulum free. In some cases, Dr. Dyson may refer the child and their parents to an ENT or dentist to correct a posterior tongue-tie. Most babies experience very little discomfort, as there aren’t many blood vessels or nerves in this area of the tongue. Stitches are not required and complications with infant frenotomy are very rare.
The presence of a tongue-tie does not necessarily mean that surgery is necessary. Dr. Dyson is extremely experienced in diagnosing and treating tongue-ties in young children. After examining your child, he will help you decide whether a frenulectomy is the best choice. If you are experiencing any problems with feeding your newborn, please contact us immediately so we can help resolve these issues.