You might be surprised to see a pediatric dental blog post about the topic of breastfeeding. However, the truth is, that the topic of breastfeeding applies directly to the education and direct work practices of pediatric dentistry, especially ours.
Firstly, let’s address the topic of breastfeeding and dental health for your baby. We’ve written before about the topic of what is called bottle rot, which is when your infant’s teeth are exposed to sugary drinks (such as formula or juice) over a long period of time and can cause tooth decay. For breastfeeding mothers, it’s important to know that while yes your breastmilk does have some sugars in it, studies have shown that breastfed babies have a lower risk of tooth decay. Furthermore, conclusions based on studies show that breastfeeding can assist with proper tooth alignment and a good bite structure. So how can a pediatric dentist help mothers who want to breastfeed their babies but are having issues with latching, infant weight gain, and/or pain while breastfeeding?
If you and your baby are having issues with attaining a good latch for breastfeeding, you might be encountering an ankyloglossia, more commonly referred to as a tongue tie. To explain what this is, we need to first go over what is required for your baby to make a good latch and the anatomy of the mouth.
A proper latch occurs when the mouth of your baby is able to create a seal with their mouth around your areola (not just the tip of your nipple) that allows them to create a strong pressure that sucks the milk out of the breast much like a vacuum.
Every tongue is rooted to the floor of the mouth by a thin membrane called the lingual frenulum. Moreover, the lips are connected to the gum line by a thin membrane called the labial frenulum. Typically, these membranes thin out and lengthen somewhat before your baby is even born thereby allowing tongue mobility and easy movement of the lips.
When the frenulum is short or tight and consequently restricts the mobility of the tongue or the ability to move the upper or lower lip then your baby might have a tongue-tie or a lip tie. These restrictions could have an impact on your baby’s ability to create a sealed latch for strong suction and may have them squeezing the breast in an attempt to draw out the milk instead.
It is important to note that a tongue tie or a lip tie does NOT mean your baby has a disfiguration. Nor does it automatically mean there is or will be a problem with breastfeeding, dental alignment, or speech as they get older. If your pediatrician or lactation consultant believes a tongue tie or lip tie is causing issues with breastfeeding, we can help you.
In our offices, we provide a variety of pediatric dental services just for kids, but one important service we provide for infants and breastfeeding mothers is called a frenectomy. A frenectomy is also referred to as a lip tie release or a tongue-tie release. Remember that the restricted movement of the tongue or lip means the membrane is tight or short? A frenectomy procedure will remove the membrane, and as the area heals it will then reform with a longer frenulum that allows greater mobility.
We perform a frenectomy using cutting-edge technology from our LightScalpel CO2 laser. Unlike other lasers used in the industry that burn away unwanted tissue, our CO2 laser vaporizes the frenulum away. This vaporizing action is preferable overburning for several reasons:
- It is gentler
- It does not generate heat or burn
- It does not damage the surrounding area tissues
- It is more precise
- It results in little to no bleeding
- It lowers the risk of infection
- It disinfects the wound
- It cauterizes the wound
As mentioned above, the procedure is gentler on your baby than you might expect, and the wound will be cauterized by the laser thereby protecting it from infection. The wound will be visible and appear diamond in shape. During the healing phase, you can expect the wound (diamond) to change color. White, yellow, and green tone are all acceptable colors during the healing phase. On other parts of the body white, yellow, and green may cause you concern for infection. However, this wound is healing on the inside of the mouth and we call it a “wet scab”. Watch the diamond for the growth of a new frenulum. The new frenulum should grow and lengthen. A collaborative follow-up is important because we want the frenulum to regrow to be a healthy length that allows mother and baby a better breastfeeding experience.
We know that issues with breastfeeding can be emotionally and physically exhausting for mothers. Furthermore, while a frenectomy can help, we believe that mothers need to be supported when making the decision and have that support continue during the healing phase. We believe that collaboration with your pediatrician and/or lactation consultant will help you feel that support. When possible, and expressly approved by you, we can consult with you and your providers during follow-up with the exercises and stretching post-procedure that are an important part of aftercare.
Yes, we said it. We are experts at this and people come from hundreds of miles away for our help. We have offices in four different locations of the South Davis area; Bountiful, Taylorsville, Stansbury Park, and Herriman. Our pediatric dentists in each office are equipped with compassion, experience, and the state-of-the-art LightScalpel CO2 laser to serve you and your baby.
If you have questions or concerns about lip ties or tongue ties, we are happy to help you. Give us a call at 801-948-8880.