It's Thursday, and I am basking in the sweetness of a no-work day. Right now, I'm sitting at my computer...typing this, with Lana Del Rey playing on Spotify. I am going back and forth between the Expedia and ASOS websites, doing research for our honeymoon and searching for a wedding reception dress. I find myself wiggling my tongue around in my mouth. It slides along my teeth, all the way to the ones in the back, and I can even stretch it back to touch my soft palate. Things feel different--my mouth feels, in a sense, new.
In July, I decided to set an appointment for a lingual frenectomy. My frenulum, which is the tissue that connects your tongue to the bottom of your mouth, would be released. The procedure, done with a local anesthetic and laser, would be performed by a local pediatric dentist, Dr. Matt Rasche of Southern Indiana Pediatric Dentistry. Are you wondering why I was visiting a dentist for children? You were. Okay, let me explain. Some of you might know, I teach childbirth education at Bloomington Area Birth Services. Throughout my experience working with new families as a doula and educator, I often meet infants who have a thing called, "tongue tie." Ever heard of it? Also known as "ankyloglossia," this condition can decrease the mobility of the tongue. Restriction can negatively affect one's oral hygiene and cause difficulty speaking and eating. More specifically, it may influence a babe's ability to nurse effectively. Anne Smith, IBCLC, says it well when she shares, "The tongue plays an important role in breastfeeding, and if the baby's frenulum is so short that his tongue can't extend over the lower gum, he may end up compressing the breast tissue between his gums while he nurses, which can cause severe damage to the nipples" (Breastfeeding Basics). On top of a shallow latch, babe may not be achieving proper weight gain, which can affect his/her health.
So now you're probably thinking to yourself, "Well that makes sense. But why did you get one?!" In the past few months, I have learned some pretty interesting things about tongue tie--because of the families I work with, but also through the professionals who act as irreplaceable resources for these families. Ann Marie Neeley, Clinical Director of the BABS Lactation Center, and Molly McDonald, owner of Body, Mind, and Molly, helped me through the process. Ann Marie spotted my tongue tie this past year. I had no idea I had one or that it was negatively affecting me. I thought it was normal that my tongue couldn't stretch to the back of my mouth. Pretty soon, I had myself convinced the headaches I often experienced were related to my jaw and the tightness in my mouth. In fact, the right side of my jaw clicked every time I opened my mouth wide. As a child, I had terrible teeth. Braces, retainers, head gear...you name it, I probably tried it. More interestingly, I learned that tongue tie can affect the structure of your face. The restriction often results in overcrowded teeth and a narrow palate. It can also cause a protruding lower jaw, along with breathing problems (this probably explains why I breathe through my mouth when asleep). Ann Marie and Molly shared that once a tongue tie is released, I may notice a positive change in eating, breathing, simply where my tongue and jaw sit, and even the shape of my face. I was very interested to see what was to come!
After I booked my appointment with Dr. Matt, I met with Molly next to discuss her services as a craniosacral therapist. We worked once before the frenectomy, so that I could get an idea of what my mouth felt like before and how to release some of that tension, and then after, to help with the healing of my mouth. She was so knowledgable--I felt very at ease and prepared for the procedure because of her help. You can read more about Molly and her craniosacral services here.
On Thursday, August 15, I met Ann Marie at Dr. Matt's office for the procedure. She was my frenectomy doula! ;) She provided informational, emotional, and physical support...she even snapped pictures--a doula to the tee! The procedure was so short, simple, and painless. I received a local anesthetic, but infants typically go without as the numbing medication can affect babe's ability to nurse immediately after the procedure. Dr. Matt, his assistant, Ann Marie, and I put on goggles, and Dr. Matt used a laser to cauterize my frenulum (I know that last bit sounds intense, but, for me, it wasn't). I am not ashamed to say I had Ann Marie hold my hand. As Dr. Matt cut the tissue, I could feel my mouth drop open a bit more. A very strange sensation! Although my mouth was still rather numb after the procedure, it did feel different. I sensed that my tongue went back farther, closer to my soft palate. I could reach my back teeth. My tongue could stick out farther than before.
I left the office to run errands, and on my way home, I took some Ibuprofen. As I sang along to the radio in the car, I started to feel that my tongue was sore in spots that I didn't even know existed! I also began to feel like I had a lisp. I wasn't sure if it was due to the numbing medication, the swelling, or just the way my tongue sits in my mouth now. I freaked out a little and then figured that it will correct itself, whatever it is, with time. For the next week or so, I was very surprised at how tender my tongue was, especially on the sides and at the tip. It felt like there was a canker sore under my tongue, and often almost felt like a toothache...similar to a dull ache in my gums.
Here are some notes I jotted down about my food intake and the healing process:
Thursday (night of procedure): mac 'n cheese with veggies. Terrible. Sticking to cold foods from here on out.
Friday: Visit with Molly for a craniosacral appointment. After that, I eat Casa Brava for lunch with Josh. I obviously didn't learn my lesson. Eat 2 chips. Ow. No. I continue the meal gumming on rice and beans. We leave and go to Dairy Queen.
Saturday: I woke up and felt great! Only to realize it was because I hadn't moved my mouth in 8 hours. If I talk too much, I notice a lot of pain under my tongue that resonates through my gums. Feels like a toothache again.
Sunday: I open my mouth and look in the mirror. Can see the incision healing a bit, but still very sore.
Tuesday: Back to work (at Harmony's summer camp) where I read too many stories and s-l-o-w-l-y eat a turkey sandwich for lunch. I visit the grocery store after work for icecream and soup.
By that Sunday, I felt really good! Like my mouth had completely healed. Everyone's mouths heal at a different rate after the procedure. For me, it was only a little over a week before I was feeling back to normal. I have only had one headache since the procedure. My jaw doesn't click anymore. The mobility of my tongue has increased-- it's not impossible to get food out of the back of my teeth and my tongue sticks out farther than before. I also think my chin looks a little different than before, but it's not drastic.
Would I recommend a frenectomy for those of you who are on the fence? Yes. My tongue tie was not a dramatic one and yet I can still feel a difference. Totally worth it!
Before and After pics