All babies are different, as any parent can readily attest. The differences between children can manifest in many ways, including breastfeeding habits. Some babies nurse quite easily, whereas the process is arduous and unsatisfying for others. It is hardly surprising that doctors, dentists, and lactation experts have developed a range of potential solutions. But the nature of these solutions may surprise you.

For example, one increasingly common procedure is to have the baby’s tongue tie cut. Simply put, many babies are born with their tongue tethered to the bottom of the mouth, something that some experts believe inhibits the baby’s ability to nurse. As such, a number of practices have begun cutting babies’ tongues with laser technology. 

This “tongue tie” remedy has actually been around for a long time, but it has exploded in recent years as more and more moms feel high pressure to breastfeed. Proponents of the treatment say that it makes it much easier for infants to get the nutrients they need, preventing dehydration and malnutrition. 

Are “Tongue Tie” Treatments Overused?

While there may be scenarios in which these treatments are appropriate, there is also a significant risk of overuse. Some researchers have begun sounding the alarm, noting that laser treatments are sometimes pushed on parents even when there is no evidence that there is a tongue tie in place. This is especially worrisome given that the procedure carries a slight yet significant level of danger.

Facts That Every Parent Should Know 

A very small percentage of babies are born with a bundle of tissue connecting the tip of their tongue to the bottom of their mouth. In select cases, it may be beneficial for these tongue ties to be snipped. However, scientific research shows that the majority of tongue ties are harmless, and snipping them rarely has a real effect on the baby’s ability to breastfeed.

None of this has stopped lactation experts and some oral health professionals from offering laser therapies for infants with tongue ties, often charging hundreds of dollars to have excess tissue removed while promising a range of positive health effects. In many ways, these tongue-tie treatments have become a niche industry.

The Truth About Tongue Ties

Thankfully, more and more pediatricians are noting that tongue-tie procedures are being pushed at an incredibly unnecessary rate. In some cases, the “experts” pushing these therapies may be well-intentioned. But in other cases, it is seemingly just a money grab.

The reality is that most babies do not need this procedure, and most tongue tie operations yield little to no real benefit. And the risks, while uncommon, are still worth noting. The pain generated by the procedure causes some babies to refuse to eat, compounding any existing problems with dehydration or malnutrition. There have also been cases of babies being seriously injured due to their loose tongues flopping around and obstructing their airways.

Our recommendation to parents is to exhaust all other remedies to address breastfeeding issues, and to avoid any tongue tie procedures without first talking to a reputable oral surgeon. Be skeptical of exhortations to pursue this treatment, remembering that it is usually not needed, and occasionally downright dangerous.

We invite you to contact our team at Maryland Center for Oral Surgery and Dental Implants with any questions directly at (410) 204-1467