Mother Holding Child, laughingAlthough “frenectomy” sounds like a serious procedure, it really isn’t. It’s actually a very simple procedure that nearly 5% of newborns require for a higher quality of life. A frenectomy becomes necessary when a baby is born with what is known as a tongue-tie, or tethered oral tissue. The frenulum is the small piece of tissue that connects the upper lip to the upper jaw, and the small tissue that connects the tongue to the lower jaw. When the frenulum is too tight, it can restrict movement and cause a wide array of problems. A frenectomy releases the frenulum to allow for a full range of motion.

It can be difficult to know whether your child could benefit from a frenectomy. That’s why it’s important to know which signs to recognize so you can seek medical attention before it causes further problems.

1. Trouble Breastfeeding

One of the first signs your child might need a frenectomy is something you will notice when they’re still an infant. If your baby is having trouble breastfeeding, it can be due to a tongue-tie. When a baby can’t move their lips in a full range of motion, it can make latching onto the nipple difficult. They might not be able to latch or latch too deeply. Your baby might also feed for long periods but still be hungry, lose weight, or develop jaundice or colic.

Mothers will also experience their own symptoms when their baby struggles with breastfeeding. If the baby has a tongue-tie, breastfeeding can feel painful and cause nipple damage. The nipples might compress or distort into wedge shapes. Breastfeeding a baby with a tongue-tie can also result in engorgement, blocked ducts, and mastitis due to lack of milk removal. Moms might also experience either an oversupply or undersupply of milk, as well as tiredness, frustration, and discouragement.

If you notice any of these symptoms, please have your baby evaluated for a tongue tie. Treatment can help them breastfeed without struggle.

2. Mouth Breathing

When a child has an untreated tongue-tie, their tongue tends to sit lower in the mouth without making the necessary contact with the roof of the mouth when swallowing. This can result in a high narrow palate that reduces the necessary spaces for nasal breathing. It also causes the mouth to rest in an open position. As a result, children will breathe through their mouths instead of through their noses. This can contribute to obstructive sleep apnea which is a serious health condition that can continue into adulthood. 

Other than seeing your child breathe through their mouth during the day, you might notice snoring at night. Snoring or mouth breathing are huge indicators that there is an underlying problem that needs to be addressed.

3. Gap Between Upper Two Front Teeth

When the upper frenulum is too tight, it can affect the position of teeth. The frenulum extends to the edge of the gum tissue that can cause a gap between the two front teeth. In some cases, the teeth will push together naturally but in other cases, the frenulum needs to be cut and braces may be required to fix the gap. Your child’s gapped teeth might look cute, but it could also be a sign of a tongue tie.

4. Difficulty Eating

A tongue-tie can make swallowing even more difficult, not just during breastfeeding, but during adolescence and until it’s fixed. This is because, without a full range of motion, the tongue can’t rest in the correct position to swallow. Try swallowing without your tongue on the roof of your mouth and see how difficult it is. That’s what it’s like trying to swallow with a tongue tie.

5. Gum Recession

Tongue-ties can also contribute to gum recession. This is because the frenulum connects to the edge of the gum tissue. When it’s too tight, it can pull on the gum tissue and cause the gums to recede. 

6. Speech Impediments

The last sign your child might need a frenectomy is if they have a speech impediment. Once again, a tongue tie prevents the tongue from moving in a full range of motion which makes pronouncing certain sounds more difficult. If your child speaks with a lisp or exhibits any other abnormal speech patterns, we highly encourage you to book a consultation with our dentists at Center for TMJ & Sleep Apnea in Lee’s Summit.

What Happens Without Frenectomy Treatment

It’s important to resolve a tongue tie as early as possible to prevent serious problems that can persist into adulthood including:

  • Abnormal jaw development
  • Crooked, gapped, misaligned teeth
  • TMJ disorder
  • Sleep apnea
  • Oral health problems
  • Bedwetting
  • Picky eating
  • Snoring
  • Teeth grinding
  • Headaches
  • Forward head posture
  • Behavior and attention problems
  • Problems in social situations
  • Inability to speak fast or clearly

Visit Our Lee’s Summit Dentist for a Frenectomy Consultation Today

If your child experiences any of the symptoms of tongue-tie listed above, they might be a good candidate for a frenectomy in Lee’s Summit. During a consultation with Dr. Pribyl or Dr. Kleoppel, they will examine your child to determine if a frenectomy is the best treatment option. Contact our dental office today at (816) 795-1000 to book an appointment.