Laser dental treatment stops kids from tripping over words

June 21, 2004
Case given shows how 6-year-old Eric moved from tongue-tied to confident.

Eric was your average 6-year-old, full of life and always in motion. He was a good student in kindergarten but something was different about him. Eric was tongue-tied.

Constantly tripping over his words, he was an easy target for teasing by his classmates that frequently left him in tears. Eric's mother deemed speech therapy too expensive, and instead turned to the Internet.

Research led her to the Academy of Laser Dentistry's Web site,, where she learned that a quick and safe dental laser procedure could solve Eric's problem. The web site lists dentists all over the world who have successfully completed certification in laser dentistry. Today, Eric speaks more clearly and is no longer teased by classmates.

"Tongue-ties can affect people of all ages: newborns, young children and adults," says Dr. Lawrence Kotlow, a board-certified pediatric dentist practicing in Albany, N.Y. "Parents and newborns can become frustrated when mothers cannot nurse due to the infant's inability to latch on to a mother's breast.

"Young children, like Eric, may develop speech difficulties, dental decay or eating problems. Adults can develop social, eating, periodontal or orthodontic problems when the tongue has varying degrees of immobility. The correction of this abnormality using a laser procedure is simple and safe, and virtually problem-free."

The medical term for tongue-tie is ankyloglossia, which is caused by a restrictive frenum that stops the tongue from extending beyond the lower front teeth or lips. The frenum is comprised of little strings of tissue found underneath the tongue, inside the cheeks near the back molars, or under the top lip. While an embryo is developing in the womb, these strings guide growth of various mouth structures, helping to position baby teeth. After birth, the fraenula become largely unnecessary.

A quick laser treatment called frenectomy easily corrects the tongue-tie condition with little or no bleeding, as compared to a traditional scalpel. In a procedure that generally lasts less than 10 minutes, the frenum's abnormal attachment can be revised and corrected. Although ankyloglossia affects only a small percentage of the population, it represents a growing number of oral conditions that can be effectively treated with a laser. Eric left the office and was back at school the next day.

Dr. Fred Margolis, a pediatric dentist in Buffalo Grove, Ill., also performs laser frenectomies with excellent results. "I find it very rewarding that after a simple procedure, my patients can eat and speak more easily right after leaving the office." The parent of a recent patient was delighted with the speedy recovery: "My son was able to play soccer that same evening ... he didn't even need a pain reliever."

Mothers of newborns with tongue-tie frequently have a history of difficult nursing. A quick procedure for infants allows easier nursing and relieves mothers of the fear of pain. For many dentists, including Dr. Kotlow, the results are personally gratifying. "By using the newest laser technology in my practice, and using it appropriately, I hope to help remove the 'fear' of going to the dentist."

The Academy of Laser Dentistry (ALD) is devoted to clinical education, research and the development of standards and guidelines for the safe and effective use of dental lasers technology. For more information, contact the Academy at (877) LASERS6 (1-877-527-3776) or visit the Academy's web site at