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Stoughton dentist preaching laser surgery to treat newborns with lip tie or tongue tie

Dr. Martin Kaplan of Stoughton teaches a laser-surgery procedure at Tufts.handout

When a newborn has lip tie or tongue tie, the result of tiny extra tissue on the upper gum or under the tongue, it can lead to difficulty feeding and developmental issues, as well as pain for a breast-feeding mother that can lead to infection.

Dr. Martin Kaplan, a Stoughton pediatric dentist for 37 years, performs a laser-surgery procedure to snip the tissue away, saying it’s much better than using a scalpel. Babies have come to him for treatment from as far away as Italy, he said.

Kaplan, also an adjunct professor in the postgraduate department of Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, is now spreading the word in the medical community.


“I was one of three doctors, and the developer, of a surgical laser infant training class at Tufts in March, which I believe was the first ever to train physicians and dentists how to perform this procedure,” Kaplan said. “The response was tremendous; the only complaint was that the classes didn’t offer enough time.”

As a result, Kaplan will lead longer classes at Tufts starting in September.

The medical conditions have been around forever, he said, adding that the Bible had reports of midwives performing the snipping with “a sharp thing.” With laser surgery, it’s easier and more exacting, with minimal discomfort to the infant, he said.

“Sometimes doctors have trouble cutting back far enough,” he said. “I can get much farther back and in less than a minute, without anesthesia.”

He said the babies feel virtually no pain, but often cry during the procedure because their eyes are covered and it scares them. Far more painful for babies are blood tests and immunizations, Kaplan said.

When babies have tongue or lip ties, it is often painful for the breastfeeding mother. In the 1950s, it became less of an issue with the introduction of infant formula.


“That was pushed as a better thing than breast milk, which it’s not,” said Kaplan, who’s writing a book on the laser procedure.

Kaplan has gotten notice for his efforts to promote the surgical procedure. He was taped for a webinar to be offered in 60 countries, has been interviewed on local news outlets, and lectured on the topic in China.

Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at