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Quick, painless procedure may help some newborn babies bond with mother

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"In about 3 to 10 percent of the infants born, they have an abnormal remnant of tissue of membrane called a frendulum ... and this attaches to the tongue or lip," explained Dr. Bill Chambers of Great Beginnings Pediatric Dentistry in Asheville. The frendulum keeps babies from latching to nurse. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

When 2-year-old Victor Mathews was born, he wouldn't latch to nurse.

"After you give birth, you have all kinds of emotions and put on top of it not being able to nourish your baby makes it even more emotional," recalled Victor's mother, Hannah Mathews. "You're feeling guilty and sad."

"In about 3 to 10 percent of the infants born, they have an abnormal remnant of tissue of membrane called a frendulum ... and this attaches to the tongue or lip," explained Dr. Bill Chambers of Great Beginnings Pediatric Dentistry in Asheville.

Victor was, in essence, tongue-tied. At only a few days old, he required a frenectomy.

A frenectomy is an office procedure where a dentist uses a unique CO2 laser to precisely, quickly, and painlessly vaporize the tissue. During the laser procedure, everyone in the room is wearing goggles -- including the baby. It doesn't take long, only about 20 seconds for the lip and 30 seconds for the tongue.

"It's a little scary to think about your baby undergoing a procedure at such a young age," Mathews said

"For us, it's really a rewarding experience because it really does change people's lives," Chambers insisted.

"After the procedure, he could latch," Hannah recalled of Victor. "In the end, in my opinion, it's very worth it."

"This is one of the few procedures done in medicine or dentistry where two people get the benefit of the procedure," Chambers added. "The baby gets the benefit because they're now able to properly nurse and the mother gets the benefit because she can now nurse, and it creates that mother-child bonding."

The Mathews family had more peace of mind when newborn Clara also required the procedure a few weeks ago. It was a simple fix to what can otherwise become a big problem.

Doctor Chambers said children who need a frenectomy -- but don't get it -- often have growth, sleep, and speech issues. Typically, insurance will cover the cost of the procedure.

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