Tongue-Ties and Frenectomies in Bethesda, Chevy Chase

A tongue-tie, also known as ankyloglossia, is a congenital condition that affects the mobility of the tongue. It occurs when the lingual frenulum, a band of tissue under the tongue, is too short, tight, or thick. This restricts the mobility of the tongue. A tongue-tie can make it difficult for a child to perform various tasks with their tongue, such as sticking it out or moving it from side to side, and can also affect speech and nursing.

Tongue-tie can be spotted after the child is just a few weeks old. The exact cause of tongue-tie is unknown, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some infants may have a hereditary tendency towards a tight lingual frenulum, while others may develop it as a result of certain environmental factors during pregnancy, such as malnutrition or the use of certain medications.

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How can a tongue-tie be treated

At BCC Pediatric Dentistry, Dr. Shin is experienced at treating tongue-ties. Dr. Shin will typically recommend a frenectomy, which is a surgical procedure used to treat tongue-tie. It is a minimally invasive procedure that uses a laser to release the lingual frenulum, the band of tissue under the tongue that is too short, tight, or thick, which restricts the movement of the tongue.
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What to Expect

During a laser frenectomy, a laser is used to precisely cut the frenulum and separate it from the tongue. The laser seals the cut tissue at the same time, reducing bleeding and the need for stitches. The procedure is usually performed under local anesthesia, so the child is awake but the area being treated is numbed.
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Minimal Discomfort

A frenectomy is usually performed as an outpatient procedure and takes only a few minutes, with minimal discomfort for the child.
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One of the benefits of a laser frenectomy is that it is a quick and minimally invasive procedure with a low risk of complications. The laser cauterizes the tissue as it cuts, reducing bleeding and the need for stitches. It also allows for more precise and controlled cutting, reducing the risk of damaging surrounding tissues.


Do you think your child is tongue-tied? Contact BCC Pediatric Dentistry and schedule a consultation.

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Tongue Tie Overview

Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) is a condition present at birth that restricts the tongue’s range of motion.

With tongue-tie, an unusually short, thick or tight band of tissue (lingual frenulum) tethers the bottom of the tongue’s tip to the floor of the mouth, so it may interfere with breast-feeding. Someone who has tongue-tie might have difficulty sticking out his or her tongue. Tongue-tie can also affect the way a child eats, speaks and swallows.

Sometimes tongue-tie may not cause problems. Some cases may require a simple surgical procedure for correction.

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Signs and symptoms of tongue-tie include:

  • Difficulty lifting the tongue to the upper teeth or moving the tongue from side to side
  • Trouble sticking out the tongue past the lower front teeth
  • A tongue that appears notched or heart shaped when stuck out
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When to see a doctor

See a doctor if:

  • Your baby has signs of tongue-tie that cause problems, such as having trouble breast-feeding
  • A speech-language pathologist thinks your child’s speech is affected by tongue-tie
  • Your older child complains of tongue problems that interfere with eating, speaking or reaching the back teeth
  • You’re bothered by your own symptoms of tongue-tie
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Typically, the lingual frenulum separates before birth, allowing the tongue free range of motion. With tongue-tie, the lingual frenulum remains attached to the bottom of the tongue. Why this happens is largely unknown, although some cases of tongue-tie have been associated with certain genetic factors.

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Risk factors

Although tongue-tie can affect anyone, it’s more common in boys than girls. Tongue-tie sometimes runs in families.


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Tongue-tie can affect a baby’s oral development, as well as the way he or she eats, speaks and swallows.

For example, tongue-tie can lead to:

  • Breast-feeding problems. Breast-feeding requires a baby to keep his or her tongue over the lower gum while sucking. If unable to move the tongue or keep it in the right position, the baby might chew instead of suck on the nipple. This can cause significant nipple pain and interfere with a baby’s ability to get breast milk. Ultimately, poor breast-feeding can lead to inadequate nutrition and failure to thrive.
  • Speech difficulties. Tongue-tie can interfere with the ability to make certain sounds — such as “t,” “d,” “z,” “s,” “th,” “r” and “l.”
  • Poor oral hygiene. For an older child or adult, tongue-tie can make it difficult to sweep food debris from the teeth. This can contribute to tooth decay and inflammation of the gums (gingivitis). Tongue-tie can also lead to the formation of a gap or space between the two bottom front teeth.
  • Challenges with other oral activities. Tongue-tie can interfere with activities such as licking an ice cream cone, licking the lips, kissing or playing a wind instrument.
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What Moms & Dads Say:

Dr. Shin is very friendly and very knowledgeable, I trust her decisions and she always answers all my questions before starting treatment, my kids like their dentist and their hygienist and I’m glad they are taking all the necessary precautions for CoViD19 prevention.

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Fatine A

Toddler Mommy

Dr. Shin is very friendly and experienced. My 6-year old daughter loves visiting Dr. Shin's dental office.

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Freddy V

Kindergartener Dad

Dr. Shin is the best kids dentist in Bethesda!  She is so great with my son. He's already asking when we can go back to see her.  We're so happy we found Dr. Shin.  Anyone looking for a pediatric dentist should look no further than BCC Pediatric Dentistry.  

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