Laser surgery for tongue tie helping babies thrive

You may be surprised to learn that many of the challenges new mothers face with breastfeeding a newborn can be related to tongue or lip tie. It is however a condition that can be easily rectified via laser surgery.

Known professionally as ankyloglossia, tongue tie is a congenital condition in which the lingual (tongue) or labial (lip) frenum (sometimes called frenulum) is too tight, causing restrictions in movement that can cause significant difficulty with breastfeeding and, in some instances, other health concerns like dental, digestive and speech issues.

Common symptoms include poor latch or inability to latch, sliding of the nipple, sleepy feeds, poor weight gain, clicking during a feed, maternal nipple pain or damage, increased maternal nipple or breast infection, compromised maternal milk supply, dribbling milk at the breast/ bottle and even digestive issues such as increased gassiness or reflux due to additional air being swallowed and poor control of the milk during swallowing.

Tongue or lip ties present in many different shapes and forms. Many providers have only been trained to look for very prominent, classic tongue-ties that often create a heart shaped tongue. However, tongue ties can be deceptively hidden in the base back area under the tongue and cannot be easily visualised. Proper assessment and evaluation are critical for proper identification.

When the diagnosis is well carried out and the surgery is done correctly using a laser, it is a relatively quick and easy process, not requiring general anaesthetics, the operating room, sutures or oral medications. It can be completed in the dental office within a few minutes.

Lasers are an excellent alternative to scissors or a scalpel as a means to incise soft tissue. In laser terms the tissue is “ablated”. Light energy is used to incise tissue rather than cutting that occurs with scissors or scalpels. The use of lasers in surgery has a distinct advantage over other methods for a number of reasons: it reduces the collateral damage as it is more precise and cuts layer by layer, it is bactericidal (kills bacteria as it ablates), reduces oedema, swelling and inflammation and therefore allows for better healing through the concept of photobiomodulation.

Dentists using lasers need to be properly trained in laser physics, laser safety and are required to complete a suitable course on laser oral surgery. All methods of surgery require a good knowledge of what the purpose of the surgery is as well as the necessary post-operative care.

Treating the breastfeeding infant is not merely a quick “snip”. It involves informed consent by the parents, and a proper clinical examination by an expert in the oral environment.

Dr Jones has been treating tongue tie in adults using laser surgery for over a decade and due to demand from lactation consultants and parents has more recently expanded her practice to include infants and small children. Dr Jones is one of very few providers of laser surgery in Australia to revise tongue ties in infants, and welcomes patients from regional, interstate and overseas who are prepared to travel to take advantage of the benefits of laser surgery when their needs cannot be effectively met in their local area.

We have been delighted at Enhance Dentistry to see the change in infants and families following laser surgery. Parents report that their babies are sleeping better and growing better. They also talk about the transformative effect on the whole family as the problems and stress associated with tongue tie are removed, and we know from experience that a family with a soundly sleeping baby is a happier family.

If you would like more information, please contact us for a fact sheet. If you believe your child may have a tongue tie and you have observed the symptoms noted above, please call us on 07 3217 6688 to arrange for a consultation with Dr Jones.