Lip & Tongue Tie 101: Everything You Need to Know

Lip and tongue ties are a common topic of conversation for new parents. It is a relatively new subject matter as it was a commonly missed diagnosis during infancy. Now both pediatricians and pediatric dentists are educating lactation consultants and parents about lip and tongue ties in hopes to alleviate many of the disruptions that occur during the early stages and prevent future concerns.

Lip & Tongue Ties: What Are They?

The band of tissue behind your upper lip and under you tongue is clinically called a frenum. When these membranes have developed unusually short, thick, or tight, the bands of tissues tend to tether the tongue down to the floor of the mouth restricting movement and mobility of both lip and/or tongue to move comfortably and freely. As a result, the tie oftentimes interferes with breastfeeding, chewing, speech, oral hygiene, and other activities such as licking your favorite ice cream cone, licking the lips, kissing, or even playing an instrument.

Why is it Important to Treat a Lip or Tongue Tie?

Proper oral development and/or infant breastfeeding helps to expand the size of the palate, open the airway, oxygenate the blood, support brain growth, and helps to prevent future disorders like Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Tethered oral tissues have a huge affect on oral development in infants and children, which can lead breathing and airway concerns.

How To Recognize the Symptoms of Lip & Tongue Ties

A tongue-tie is a condition where an abnormally short, thick, or tight band of tissue binds the bottom of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. A lip tie is when the length and width of the band of tissue extends between the upper lip and gums above the upper front teeth.

Both lip and tongue ties are congenital circumstances, which means children are born with them. They limit the movement of the lips and/or restrain the tongue which impacts most oral functions, like speaking, feeding, swallowing and most crucial, breathing.

Some mothers may come to suspect a lip or tongue tie during their infant’s breastfeeding sessions. This is because tongue-tied babies are unable to draw the nipple as deeply into the mouth to receive adequate milk.

Some babies with tongue or lip ties may only be able to nurse just enough to grow in their first few weeks but are not able to maintain enough nourishment to continue growing. These same children may have difficulty managing solid foods when they are older.

Baby Signs & Symptoms

Weak latch, or clicking sounds while nursing
Gumming or chewing or choking while nursing
Swallowing air (aerophagia)
Reflux or colic
Fatigue during eating
Projectile spitting up during or after eating
Struggle to gain weight; maintain weight, or weight loss
Gagging, popping off the breast to gasp for air
Lip blisters and callouses
Gassiness (babies with ties often swallow a lot of air)
Inability to hold a pacifier
Milk consumption, dribbling from sides of mouth (excessive drooling)
Heart-shaped tongue

Signs & Symptoms for a mother of an Infant with Lip or Tongue Tie

Cracked, blistered, bleeding nipples
Plugged ducts
Continual discomfort or pain during nursing
Compromised milk supply
Long nursing sessions (or extremely short because baby gets tired)
Postpartum depression

Child & Adolescent Signs & Symptoms

Impeded tongue movement
Speech interference
Difficulty swallowing
Improper chewing/digestive issues
Gum Recession
Inability to clean teeth with tongue swipe
Sleep and breathing problems
Behavior and attention issues
Nighttime walking
Nighttime tooth grinding
Spacing or gaps between front teeth

Lip And Tongue Tie Evaluation

Is your child having trouble with the movement of their lips or tongue?

At Smiles 4 Keeps we recommend having your child assessed for a lip or tongue tie during the early phases of infancy to determine if there are any foreseen oral tissues and that everything is developing correctly. During this assessment, we will safeguard that the length and thickness of the lip and tongue tissues are appropriate and check for any signs or symptoms that your child may be experiencing.

During these evaluations, our goal is to diagnose a tie as early as possible to prevent any developmental constraints. One of our Smiles 4 Keeps, specially trained providers will observe the length of the tie and its point of attachment to surrounding tissues. We will also consider any other symptoms that the child may be experiencing to help us achieve resolution.

As far as physical signs, it is not uncommon for there to be a visible large space between the upper front teeth or for the tongue to have a heart shape at the tip with a cupped appearance

Lip And Tongue Tie Treatment

If your child is be subjected to a severe enough tie that negatively impacts their oral function or development, our maxillofacial surgery department can perform a simple procedure called a frenectomy to minimize the tie and restore proper function. From there, our team will continue to monitor your child’s oral development to ensure they are brought up with proper oral hygiene instruction

What to Expect: Frenectomy

The frenum tissue is very thin and easily treated with a laser or a traditional surgical approach. The tissue is number, then using our suggested surgical tools, is released by cutting and sealing. There is very minimal trauma to the tissue and sutures are not usually needed. There is little to no discomfort during the procedure and an expedited recovery.

We do not recommend a “wait and see” approach when it comes to lip and tongue ties due to the range of potential developmental difficulties. The treatment for these conditions is quick, simple, and virtually devoid of complications. Therefore, if you suspect one of these conditional conditions, please do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with one of our providers.

Call to schedule your infant or child’s lip and/or tongue tie evaluation with one of our Smiles 4 Keeps providers today!

Need to Schedule a Pediatric Dental Appointment?

If your child is ready for his or her first pediatric dental visit, call Smiles 4 Keeps. Our friendly pediatric dentists provide gentle kid’s dentistry using a variety of dental services.

We have three convenient office locations in Northeast Pennsylvania catering to many areas. Here is the contact information, office hours, and business addresses for each of our office locations:

Bartonsville: 3361 Route 611, Bartonsville, PA 18321 – Phone: 570-629-1142;
Hours: Mon & Fri 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Scranton: 313 Mulberry St., Scranton, PA 18503 – Phone: 570-346-7760;
Hours: Mon, Tues, Wed 9:00 am – 5:00 pm | Thurs – Fri: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Wilkes-Barre: 900 Schechter Dr, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702 – Phone: 570-822-4181;
Hours: Mon- Fri 9:00 am – 5:00 pm