Did you know that 5% of all infants can be born tongue tied? Known formally as ankyloglossia, tongue tie refers to a condition where the connective tissue underneath the tongue is too short. This tissue is known as the lingual frenum. When the lingual frenum is too short, it can prevent the tongue from moving properly, which can cause problems with breastfeeding and speech.
In some cases, infants can also have a shortened labial frenum. The labial frenum is the piece of connective tissue that connects the upper lip to the gums above the front teeth. When the labial frenum is too short, this can also cause speech problems. Additionally, it can also lead to problems with dental development, as well as an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease since it is hard to properly clean the teeth and gums.
To prevent secondary complications from a shortened lingual or labial frenum, your child’s dentist may recommend something known as a frenectomy. Frenectomies are simple procedures that can be performed in about 15 minutes using local anesthetics. During a frenectomy, your child’s dentist will simply snip the lingual or labial frenum with a scalpel, surgical scissors, or cauterizing instrument. This will release the tongue or lip tie and allow for normal functioning.
Not all infants with tongue or lip tie will need a frenectomy, however your child may need a frenectomy if:
They have problems breastfeeding
If your newborn or infant is struggling to breastfeed or you find it excessively painful to breastfeed them, this may indicate the need for a frenectomy. This is because infants who are tongue tied have trouble swallowing since their tongue cannot move like it should. In cases of severe tongue tie, newborns will often receive a frenectomy before leaving the hospital. If you think your child is having trouble swallowing, it is worth making an appointment with their pediatric dentist to determine if a short lingual frenum is the cause.
You Notice Speech Impediments
As your child grows and begins speaking, you may begin to notice certain speech impediments, like lisps. While some speech problems are to be expected as your child is learning to speak, if they continue this can be an indication that a frenectomy is needed. This is because a short lingual frenum prevents the tongue from being able to move in the necessary positions to produce proper sounds. Additionally, a short labial frenum can also cause problems with speech since the upper lip is affected.
They sleep with their mouth open
It is not normal for your child to sleep with their mouth open all the time and doing so can indicate that they are not able to close their mouth properly. While there can be a number of causes for this, one common cause is that they have a tight labial frenum that prevents their lips from meeting up comfortably. Unfortunately, mouth breathing can cause a number of development problems, such as an open bite.
Their teeth look larger than they should
When the gums recede, or pull away from the teeth, it can make the teeth look much larger than normal. Gum recession can occur when the labial frenum is too tight and is constantly pulling on the gum tissue. In addition to making your child’s teeth look large, gum recession can also increase their risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease. When the labial frenum constantly pulls on the gums, this can also cause a gap to form between the two front teeth.
Dr. Marielena Torres is board certified and is constantly continuing her education to stay informed of the latest developments in pediatric dentistry. This allows her to offer patients and their parents the most cutting-edge care and education.