May 20, 2022
It is normal for babies to spit up every now and then, but your baby seems to empty their stomach after feedings more often than not. It can make you and your baby frustrated, leave your baby hungry, and you unable to console them.
The problem might not be with your baby’s stomach at all—infant acid reflux could be the result of a tongue tie. Keep reading to learn how these conditions may be connected and what your pediatric dentist can do to help your baby have an easier time keeping food down.
What a Tongue Tie Is
A tongue tie is a small piece of tissue that develops while your baby is in utero that remains after birth. This tissue connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth, and when it is too thick or short, it prevents the tongue from achieving a good seal around the nipple. Because of this, babies with restrictive tongue ties tend to struggle with breastfeeding.
How a Tongue Tie Could Be Causing Your Baby’s Reflux
At first glance, acid reflux and a tongue tie may seem complete unrelated. How could a problem with the tongue lead food coming back up? The truth is more complicated. When the tongue is not free to move as it should, the swallowing motion isn’t as efficient as it otherwise could and should be. As a result, your baby swallows air along with the milk or formula. These air bubbles rise back up, but if there’s enough air in the stomach, it can bring up food as well as burps.
How a Tongue Tie Is Resolved
Unfortunately, treating acid reflux symptoms in infants often comes with overly strong medications formulated for adults. As a result, babies can deal with side effects long afterward. However, tongue tie treatment, also called a frenectomy, comes with very few side effects and is effective for many infants who struggle with reflux.
The procedure involves releasing the restrictive tissue. While this formerly entailed using a scalpel and sutures, modern technology allows some dentists to sever a tongue tie using a laser. It gently removes the tissue, enabling the tongue to have a larger range of motion immediately.
You should see improvement in your baby’s ability to latch instantly, but it could take a few feedings for your baby to figure out the proper technique for swallowing without bringing in air. The dentist may even encourage you to nurse right after the frenectomy to soothe your baby as well as to help them use better form for breastfeeding.
Although tongue tie treatment may not be the correct answer for all babies with acid reflux, it could address the actual cause of the problem. It is worth having your baby examined, so both of you can finally have successful feedings.
About the Author
Dr. Maggie Davis is a board-certified pediatric dentist and has earned Diplomate status with the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. She is also certified in treating lip and tongue ties with the American Board of Laser Surgery. In her practice, the Florida Tongue Tie Institute, she utilizes a CO2 light laser to perform frenectomies. Would you like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Maggie? You can contact her Palm Harbor practice online or by calling 727-786-7551.
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