While most babies are born with a piece of tissue, or frenulum, under the tongue and upper lip, it can sometimes be too restrictive and cause problems with breastfeeding, breathing, and speech development. This is commonly referred to as tongue tie or lip tie and may need treatment with a frenectomy if it’s interfering with the child’s oral functions.
What is Tongue Tie?
If you look in the mirror and lift up your tongue, you may see an attachment between your tongue and the base of your mouth. This attachment is called the lingual frenulum or frenum. It’s not uncommon to have, but if it causes problems with breastfeeding or other functions, a trained medical professional may diagnose symptomatic ankyloglossia or tongue tie.
What is Lip Tie?
Similarly, a lip tie is an excessive attachment of the upper lip to the gums. This piece of connective tissue is called a maxillary labial frenulum and, again, it’s common to have one. But when that connection is too tight, the baby’s lip is restricted. Sometimes special stretching can benefit the frenulum and problems improve. An experienced medical professional will be able to diagnose a lip tie that needs more intervention.
Tongue tie and lip tie are usually noticed in newborns who may have trouble getting a correct latch when nursing. Signs of a bad latch include: engorgement after feeding, breast and nipple pain, baby’s lip curled under while nursing, and baby getting overly tired or fussy. In many cases, a lactation consultant can help correct these problems. However, for babies with tongue tie or lip tie it’s physically impossible for the lips and tongue to get into the correct positions. A lactation consultant may refer moms to a dentist or other medical health professional who can release the tie. After the frenectomy procedure, moms and babies follow up with an occupational therapist or chiropractor.
Long-Term Lip and Tongue Tie Issues
If the ankyloglossia is not diagnosed during infancy, there are additional problems that could arise. Tongue tie has been linked to chewing, swallowing, digestion, speech and even breathing disorders. Research has found a strong correlation between lip tie and unexplained asphyxiation in infants. Older children with uncorrected tethered oral tissues may have trouble speaking and forming sounds. Additionally, children with lip and tongue ties have increased dental problems like decay (cavities), need for orthodontics, and TMJ disorder.
It might seem scary to preform a surgical procedure on a newborn baby. However, if the baby truly has symptoms, a frenectomy is the best way to release the tie and allow him or her to thrive. Frenectomies can be preformed with scissors or a specialized laser by a trained medical professional like a dentist. The frenulum is a very thin piece of connective tissue with little to no nerve endings. So frenectomies are relatively quick and painless. Babies often nurse soon after the procedure is finished. It’s extremely important to continue care with an experienced lactation consultant, chiropractor, or other therapist after the frenectomy to avoid complications like reattachment.
If you have been told or your suspect that your child could have a tongue tie or lip tie, a trained medical professional can diagnose the issue and recommend the best treatment. Dr. Asha Patel is a member of the International Affiliation of Tongue-Tie Professionals and has received special training and certification in diagnosing and treating symptomatic tongue and lip ties. Schedule an appointment for a consultation now.