Are you having trouble breastfeeding? Dr Philip Hand discusses his innovative treatment of tongue and lip-ties providing relief to babies and mums.
So what exactly are lip-ties and tongue-ties?A lip or tongue-tie is a congenital condition where a baby’s frenulum (the thin tissue that attaches the lip to the gum and tongue to the bottom of the mouth) is too short, restricting movement and causing problems with latching on. If the lip has a substantial tie, it stops the lip from being able to flange out and properly seal around mum’s nipple, or the teat of the bottle. If the tongue is tied down too much with its own frenal attachment, the baby cannot suckle properly either as their tongue doesn’t actually reach the roof of their mouth, and they are unable to swallow in the normal efficient fashion.
What are the treatment options for tongue and lip-ties?At Marriott & Hand, our treatment involves the use of a soft tissue laser to cut the fraenum in order to provide proper motion again. Using a laser to cut the ties means the wounds are sealed which promotes efficient healing and significantly reduces pain levels for the baby. It cuts in a very gentle fashion so that it’s not the red, raw wound that one might think. There won’t even be any need for stitches or a local anaesthetic. Babies up to about 7-10 months can be treated in this fashion at the Marriott & Hand practice. After this age, patients will need to undergo general anaesthetic to receive the treatment and we do not do that until the child is at least about 2 years of age. If you are concerned about your baby’s mouth development or you are having trouble feeding, it is recommended you come in to see us as soon as you can so you won’t have to wait for an extended period before treatment. Keep in mind that you will need a referral from your lactation specialist, maternal health nurse or doctor before our appointment.
Who can treat it?In Melbourne, this treatment is only offered through a limited number of practitioners. While this may seem odd, consider that in general a dentist will know more about the mouth than the medical world because of their specialised study and extensive experience. You will need to be referred to a dentist offering this treatment by your doctor, lactation consultant of maternal and child health nurse. Without these referrals we wouldn’t be able to see infant patients as they don’t generally have any teeth!
How do I know if my baby has a tongue or lip-tie?Unfortunately, symptoms of lip-ties and tongue-ties are often misdiagnosed and the troubles you may be having are put down to colic, reflux, low milk supply or simply your poor technique. If you are struggling to feed and can’t seem to figure out why, making an appointment to get assessed by Dr Phil Hand may be the best thing for you and your baby. If you suspect there is a problem, there probably is one – you know your baby better than anyone, after all. There are however, some symptoms to look out for that may help validate your suspicions. If you or your baby are experiencing any of these symptoms call Marriott & Hand today for an assessment.
- Reflux or colic
- Difficulty latching
- Poor weight gain
- Makes clicking noises when sucking
- Discomfort for the mother while feeding
- Cracked, blistered, bleeding nipples