What is Tongue or Lip-Tie?

Is your baby frustrated when trying to feed from the breast or bottle? Do they constantly seem hungry, frequently spitting up, or struggling to gain weight? He or she may have a tongue- or lip-tie.

Typically, we are born with a band of tissue that connects our lips to our gums and tongue to the bottom of our mouths for proper function. Occasionally, these bands can be too short or thick. This can cause restriction and make it difficult for babies to latch onto the bottle or breast. 

Restriction of the lip is called Lip-Tie and restriction of the tongue is known as ankyloglossia (a.k.a. Tongue-Tie.)  Approximately 5-10% of babies are born with either of these conditions.

The tongue and lips are very important for proper feeding, communication, and overall development. They rely on a very complex group of muscles; and as a result, tongue or lip-tie can lead to nursing, feeding, dental, speech, sleep, and even breathing problems. If left untreated, problems can persist into later childhood and adulthood and cause speech problems, impaired social interactions, mouth breathing, crowded, gapped, or misaligned teeth, narrow or small jaws, sleep apnea, and acid reflux.

Symptoms of Tongue or Lip-Tie in Infants Include: 

  • Difficulty latching onto breast or bottle
  • Extreme frustration during feeding
  • Smacking or clicking sounds when feeding
  • Leaking milk from the mouth while eating
  • Gastrointestinal issues including colic or excessive gas
  • Poor or slow weight gain
  • Unusually fussy 
  • Difficulty holding onto a pacifier

Symptoms of Tongue or Lip-Tie in Older Children Include: 

  • Slow or very picky eater
  • Restless sleep
  • Soft speech or mumbling
  • Choking or gagging easily
  • Delayed speech 
  • Snoring or sleeping with mouth open

Symptoms of Tongue or Lip-Tie in Adolescents & Adults Include:

  • Heavy snoring
  • Abnormal development of the midface (cheeks) 
  • Restricted movement of the tongue
  • Improper formation of the palate
  • Problems sleeping due to the tongue blocking the airway

Physical Complications from Tongue-Tie

Untreated Tongue-Ties can have a major impact on the health and function of the jaw joint as well. For those with tongue ties, the head starts to tilt forward and low. This in turn can affect posture and the surrounding muscles, resulting in the following symptoms:

  • Neck, shoulder, and back pain
  • Headaches 

When a tongue-tie release procedure is performed it then allows for the realignment of the head on the spine. Exercise and physical therapy can improve posture and relieve much of the pain that developed from tongue-tie. 

Emotional Consequences of Tongue and Lip Ties

Most don’t realize it but studies have found that moms of tongue-tied babies suffer from postpartum depression 50% more than those without. Problems caused by tongue ties can cause increased stress, guilt, and depression in breastfeeding mothers, hampering the bond between mother and child. 

It’s important that mothers understand that if their baby is having trouble feeding it is not their fault.  It could be due to tongue or lip-tie and thankfully there is a simple solution. 

Emotional effects from tongue or lip-ties can, unfortunately, extend into adolescence if left untreated. Speech issues caused by a tongue tie can lead to a lack of confidence and poor self-esteem. The constant pain or sleep issues from tongue or lip-ties can also take an emotional toll on individuals leading to frustration and affecting social relationships and work performance. 

How Are Tongue and Lip-Tie Diagnosed? 

If your child or infant is having any of the symptoms above, Dr. Betty at Clover Kids Dentistry in Arvada, Colorado would be more than happy to take a look and discuss the issue you and your child may be having. 

Dr. Betty Yip is a Board Certified Pediatric Dentist who specializes in the dental treatment of infants, toddlers, and children aged 12 months to 18 years of age. Dr. Betty graduated magna cum laude from Yale University and earned her Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD) from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine on the prestigious Dean’s Scholarship. She trained under the nation’s best pediatric dental specialists at Temple University Hospital in all treatment modalities including nitrous oxide dentistry, oral conscious sedation dentistry, minimally invasive dentistry, general anesthesia, and laser frenectomies. Her extensive pediatric dental experience and in-depth knowledge allow her to provide specialized care catered to the specific needs of each patient.

After discussing the concerns about the possibility of tongue- or lip-tie, Dr. Betty will look inside your child’s mouth. 

Signs of Tongue-tie Include:

  • Tongue cannot touch roof of mouth
  • Tip of the tongue looks heart-shaped when pushed forward
  • Tongue looks pulled downward towards bottom of mouth
  • Tongue looks short and doesn’t stick out as far as one would expect

Signs of Lip-tie Include: 

  • Lips do not completely cover gums or teeth
  • A space between the front teeth
  • Less gum than usual between the teeth

How is Tongue or Lip-Tie Treated? 

Tongue-and Lip-Ties are typically corrected with a procedure known as a frenectomy. Frenectomies essentially “release” the band of tissue, called the frenulum, that is restricting the tongue and/or lip(s). After the procedure, the tongue or lip is then free to function more adequately, allowing for proper feeding, speech development, and other important functions. 

The ideal timing for tongue-tie release is soon after diagnosis for most babies with feeding difficulties. Tongue-tie procedures used to be performed on all infants with obvious tongue-tie. Still, recent studies show that the procedure may not be necessary if they are feeding and developing properly. 

The ideal timing for lip-tie procedures varies. For young children with mostly baby teeth, a frenectomy may be performed as soon as possible in order to prevent the problems often seen with lip-tie. Those who have already had their incisors or several permanent teeth come in may need to wait for a frenectomy, often after completing any orthodontic or aesthetic treatment if gapped teeth are present. 

What is a Frenectomy Procedure Like?

At Clover Kids Dentistry in Arvada, Colorado, Dr. Betty Yip is proud to offer laser frenectomies as an alternative to traditional frenectomies. 

Traditionally, frenectomy procedures involved cutting the tight frenulum with a custom pair of dental scissors. The process is quick and simple, but can be painful and often requires a local anesthetic.

Laser frenectomies, on the other hand, use a diode laser to perform tongue and lip tie releases. The procedure can be completed in a matter of minutes. 

Benefits of a Diode Laser Frenectomy:

The main benefit of laser frenectomy is the comfort of our pediatric dental patients, which is high on Dr. Betty’s list of priorities. Dr. Betty Yip performs laser frenectomies, here in Arvada, CO because she wants to provide the highest standard of care for her patients, and the diode laser ensures that frenectomies are as successful as possible. 

Benefits of cold laser technology include:

  • Minimal discomfort
  • Quick
  • Anesthetic is not required
  • Precision and accuracy
  • No bleeding
  • No stitches required 
  • Speedy healing 
  • Reduced risk of infection 

What To Expect After a Frenectomy

Once the lip and tongue-ties are released, most infants are able to feed within minutes of the procedure. Dr. Betty may choose to monitor your child in our office immediately following the procedure to ensure the frenectomy was successful and no issues are present. 

For older children and adolescents, the laser frenectomy can quickly improve eating issues and help with speech. Adults may notice an improvement in posture along with a decrease in headache, TMJ, neck and back pain.

It’s important to understand that when your child has a tongue or lip-tie released, it may take a little while to adjust. Like any other muscle in the body, the tongue and lips are used to functioning in a certain way. When they are restricted, the body adapts and other muscles have to help compensate. When they are released, your child will have no muscle memory of how to use the tongue effectively without restriction, so it is understandable that the brain and body need a little time to learn the new techniques.

Call Today for a Consult with Dr. Betty

If you live in Arvada, Colorado or the surrounding areas, and you suspect that you or your child has a lip or tongue tie, call us today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Betty Yip at Clover Kids Dentistry. 

Frenectomies are simple, yet life-changing procedures that can improve the connection between mother and child through less stressful nursing whether it be through the bottle or breast. They can also improve the health, emotional, and social development of children, teens, and adults. Don’t Hesitate, Call Today!

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