Tongue-Ties and Lip-Ties
Dr. Baxter performs more laser tongue and lip-tie releases per day than anyone in the state of Alabama. He is the only “preferred provider” for the state of Alabama on a national database (Tongue-Tie & Lip-Tie Support Network – see the directory Click here). He also lectures nationally and has created two online CE courses to help other dentists learn how to treat this condition. We do a full examination on each patient and determine that patient’s individual’s needs before giving the option of treatment. If treatment is recommended, we can perform the procedure the same day in most cases, especially because many of our patients drive from several hours away. We would be honored to care for your child and help you through understanding more about this misunderstood condition.
There are many children who have difficulties related to tongue-ties and lip-ties, but unfortunately, it’s often not identified until later in life. It can cause various nursing difficulties, failure to gain weight, speech difficulties, and cavities among other issues. The picture to the right is of a seven-year-old with a tongue-tie that was not diagnosed until he came to our office.
This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I had a tongue-tie and didn’t know about it until dental school when it was partially released, and more recently I had it fully released. It made it difficult for me to pronounce “L” sounds, harder to speak clearly and speak fast. After it was fixed with a laser, I could move my tongue more freely (touch my palate and clean my back teeth) and say words more clearly. Afterward, I didn’t tire when reading aloud. When our twin girls were born, we had difficulty nursing and soon realized they were both tongue-tied (it’s often genetic, so mom or dad likely has one), and their top lip was tied down to their palate. We were able to find a dentist in Ohio that was able to complete the procedure with a laser, and later that day, they were both nursing better and we were very relieved!
At our office, we take the whole mouth into consideration, not just the teeth. We have helped countless families with tongue-tie or lip-tie issues. We have 1-week old babies having difficulty gaining weight, 1-year-olds with a big gap between their teeth and their parents have difficulty brushing their teeth, and even 14-year-olds that have a speech impediment due to an undiagnosed tongue-tie. We can easily release the tied-down tissues in the office with a dental laser with minimal to no bleeding and no stitches. We never use general anesthesia, but do use a numbing jelly. For toddlers, we may use a mild in-office sedation to prevent them from having a traumatic experience. We used to use a pen-like diode laser (what most dentists use), but we upgraded to a new CO2 laser that is faster, heals better, and is less painful. It’s called the LightScalpel CO2 laser. Now, instead of taking around 3 minutes for the procedure, we can accomplish it in 20 seconds for the lip, and 20 seconds for the tongue.
If your baby is having nursing difficulties (we have helped families just out of the NICU, and 3-day old babies), reflux or colic, difficulties with taking a bottle (like clicking noises), or not gaining weight appropriately, they may have a tongue-tie and/or lip-tie. Breastfeeding should not be painful, but rather fun and enjoyable. If you are experiencing pain when nursing your child may have a tongue and /or lip-tie. If your child is having speech difficulties, make sure that you have ruled-out tongue-tie as a contributing factor. It can be overlooked easily. It’s often genetic, so sometimes the parents realize they are tongue-tied, and we will release the parent’s as well if they wish to help with anything from speech to migraines to reflux.
We help families from as far away as Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Alabama who drive to our office for their baby’s tongue-tie release. We have even had patients from as far away as Belize and Japan! If you have any questions, Dr. Baxter or one of our team members would be happy to speak with you. Our phone number is 205-419-7444. For babies having feeding difficulties, we will schedule an appointment for them on the same day or next day (Dr. Baxter knows how hard it was with his girls!). The sooner the tongue is released the better the child is able to adapt to the new mobility of the tongue. A 1-week old baby will do better than a 3 week or 12-week old baby. A 4-year-old with speech issues will do better than a 7-year-old, etc.
To learn more about tongue and lip-ties, and to see some videos of Dr. Baxter examining a baby, aftercare exercises and a video of the procedure itself, continue reading.
What is a Tongue-tie or Lip-tie?
Most of us think of tongue-tie as a situation we find ourselves in when we are too excited to speak. Actually, tongue-tie is the non-medical term for a relatively common physical condition that limits the use of the tongue, ankyloglossia. Lip-tie is a condition where the upper lip cannot be curled or moved normally. Before we are born, a strong cord of tissue that guides the development of mouth structures is positioned in the center of the mouth. It is called a frenum. As we develop in the womb, this frenum is supposed to recede and thin. The lingual (tongue) or labial (lip) frenum is visible and easily felt if you look in the mirror under your tongue and lip. Everyone has a frenum, but in some people, the frenum is especially tight or fails to recede and may cause tongue/lip mobility problems.
The tongue and lip are a very complex group of muscles and are important for all oral functions. For this reason having a tongue-tie can lead to nursing, feeding, dental, or speech problems, which may be serious in some individuals. Problems can even persist into adulthood with migraines, neck pain, shoulder pain, and speech problems.