Tongue Tie Services at Spring Creek

DR. KEVIN KENNEDY

Tongue-Tie and Lip-Tie Services

In some instances, children are born with a tight attachment of the tongue to the floor of the mouth restricting the tongue’s ability to move freely. This tight attachment is commonly called a tongue tie and is often first diagnosed when experiencing breastfeeding difficulty. The limited mobility of the tongue upwards prevents an adequate latch from being achieved and causes problems such as poor weight gain, leaking from the corners of the mouth, and extreme pain or discomfort for mom among other symptoms. Thankfully, the correction for tongue tie is a simple procedure to release the tissue in a minimally invasive way and improve function.

At Spring Creek Pediatric Dentistry, Dr. Kevin Kennedy is trained and experienced in accurately diagnosing tongue tie in infants and children as well as providing the frenectomy procedure to correct the condition. The procedure is performed in-office with a soft-tissue laser and usually lasts no longer than five minutes. Because pediatric dentists are experts of the mouth, Dr. Kennedy can complete this procedure in-office, avoiding the inherent risks (and added costs) of general anesthesia.

Sometimes the tongue tie is also associated with a restrictive attachment from the upper lip to the upper jaw as well, known as a lip tie. You can find information on a lip tie (link to lip tie services page). If it is determined that your child has both a lip tie and a tongue tie, both procedures can be performed simultaneously in one visit without any additional post-operative complications.

Please call our office or book an appointment above to schedule a consultation appointment if you feel like your child could benefit from an expert opinion on the topic.

Tongue Tie

Infants

If your baby is frustrated at the breast or bottle, constantly hungry, gassy, spitting up, or struggling to gain weight, he or she may have a tongue- or lip-tie.

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Older Children

Children with tongue- or lip-ties may experience speech difficulties, feeding challenges, and sleep issues.

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A hidden problem.

Although often overlooked, tongue- and lip-ties can be an underlying cause of feeding struggles that affect a child’s weight gain and lead many mothers to stop breastfeeding.

Infants

If you or your infant have more than a few of these symptoms, even with good weight gain, your child should be properly evaluated for a tongue- and lip-tie.

Mother’s Symptoms
  • Painful nursing
  • Creased or flattened nipples
  • Blistered or cut nipples
  • Incomplete breast drainage
  • Plugged ducts or mastitis
  • Inability to nurse without using a nipple shield
  • Decreased milk supply
Baby’s Symptoms
  • Poor latch
  • Poor weight gain
  • Reflux or frequent spitting up
  • Frequent gassiness and fussiness
  • Clicking or smacking noises when eating
  • Dribbling milk out of mouth
  • Frustration when eating
  • Inability to hold a pacifier
  • Prolonged nursing or bottle-feeding sessions

Toddlers & Older Children

There are many children who have difficulties related to tongue-ties and lip-ties, but unfortunately, these conditions are often not identified until later in life. They can cause speech and feeding difficulties, sleep issues, and a wide-range of other concerns.

If your child is unable to touch the roof of the mouth with his or her tongue when opening widely, is struggling with speech delay, or speech issues that aren’t resolving, has difficulty eating or getting a good night’s sleep, please explore the sections below or watch this video about tongue- and lip-ties in older children.

Speech

A tongue restriction affects speech differently in each individual. Some children with a to-the-tip tie can articulate well (but may struggle with increased effort when speaking). Other children, with a less visible or posterior tie, may have a speech delay or difficulty producing the sounds for L, R, T, D, N, TH, SH, and Z.

We are currently conducting studies to measure the effects of tongue-tie on children’s speech and the effectiveness of the release procedure. The following issues all saw a significant improvement after a tongue-tie release in our office (p < 0.01): frustration in communication, difficulty being understood, difficulty speaking fast, difficulty getting words out, trouble with speech sounds, speech delay, and mumbling or speaking softly.

We have seen that many tongue-tied children begin saying new words, even just hours or days after the release! One child said four new words the same day as the procedure. Another increased from a total of 10 words before the procedure to 39 in the week following. There is no guarantee that every child will have immediate results, but we often see this type of drastic improvement.

Feeding

Children that are tongue-tied often have eating issues from infancy, such as trouble nursing or taking a bottle. When transitioning to solid foods, they may choke, gag, or have difficulty swallowing certain textures.

In childhood, these eating difficulties can persist and are evidenced by only eating small amounts of food, slow eating, packing food in the cheeks like a chipmunk, and pickiness with textures (soft, mushy foods and meats are typically the most difficult, but children can struggle with other foods as well). In our recent study, 84% of children with feeding issues saw improvement.

Sleep

A tongue-tied child will often grind his or her teeth at night, snore, or experience other sleep-disordered breathing problems. Releasing a tongue-tie can help a child to sleep more soundly because the tongue will be able to rest on the palate, as it was designed to do, rather than falling back to narrow or block the child’s airway. Sleep-disordered breathing can cause frequent waking, restlessness, bed-wetting, failure to feel refreshed upon waking and accompanying difficulty focusing (which is sometimes misdiagnosed as ADD or ADHD).

Because multiple factors contribute to the problem, such as large tonsils and adenoids, a narrow palate and tongue-tie, often a child will be seen by multiple specialists to try to remedy the problem. In addition, children with tongue-ties often have a history of multiple ear infections and needing ear tubes. They may have had tonsils and adenoids removed. All of these can be complicated by the mouth-breathing that frequently occurs in tongue-tied individuals, due to the low resting posture of the tongue. We have found that when there is a tongue-tie, sleep often improves dramatically after a simple in-office procedure.

How the Procedure Works

After listening to your concerns and conducting a comprehensive exam, we’ll help you determine if a release of your child’s restrictions will improve the problems you’re facing. If a tongue- or lip-tie is the culprit, we’ll go beyond a traditional snip or clip and release it completely the first time. We do not use sedation or general anesthesia for this quick procedure.

Review

We will review the list of symptoms for your child to be sure any recommendations are based on functional problems, not just based on appearance.

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Release

Using a state-of-the-art dental laser, we easily release ties in a 10-15 second procedure, usually with minimal to no bleeding.

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Recover

Babies are able to go to mom immediately following the procedure and nurse if needed. Kids typically go play on our playground!

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Results can take a little time.

It’s important to understand that, when your child has a tongue- or lip-tie released, improvement isn’t always instantaneous. It’s typically just the first step in treatment.
Just like any other muscle in the body, the tongue is used to functioning in a certain way. When it’s restricted by a tongue­-tie, the body adapts and other muscles have to help compensate. When a tongue­-tie is released, your child will have no muscle memory of how to use the tongue effectively without the restriction, so your child’s brain will need some time to learn the new skill.

While many mothers notice an immediate improvement in their infants’ ability to nurse, it is also completely normal for this to take time, as well. There may even be a little regression in sucking for a day or two as your child learns how to use an unrestricted tongue.

Reviews

Nicki S.

Dr. Kennedy takes time with each patient and goes beyond just a cleaning to make going to the dentist fun!

Katie L.

We love that Dr. Kennedy uses a conservative approach to recommending treatment and always has a smile himself.

We are thankful we found a pediatric dentist our family can trust!

3 Weeks Ago

Best pediatric dentist for your kids in Clarksville! Dr. Kennedy has cared for our large family for years and always takes the extra time to make sure all of our questions are answered!

My daughter had a tongue tie procedure performed by Dr. Kennedy that completely resolved all of our breastfeeding problems. He was thorough in every detail and supported our family after the procedure too!