You may have heard about lip and tongue ties in infants, children or even adults. A lip or tongue tie occurs when your range of motion is inhibited. They are fairly common and usually occur in infants. They can occur separately or together. There are an estimated 3 million cases per year, and the condition is often genetic. Lip and tongue ties can be easily diagnosed by trained professionals.
For the infant, a lip tie can cause many issues. Lip ties can cause the lip to feel extremely tight and inflexible, thus not allowing the lip to extend over the breast or the bottle when feeding. This can cause the infant to break suction, re-latch often, and struggle to feed and gain weight efficiently. It can also contribute to a large gap in between the top, front teeth.
In children and adults, a lip tie can create a food or milk trap and make toothbrushing difficult, increasing the risk of cavities on the front teeth. As children age, the gap in between the top teeth can pose esthetic concerns and orthodontic problems.
Tongue ties can cause many problems for babies. If the tongue is tight and tethered to the floor of the mouth, it is unable to elevate and create a deep latch on the breast or the bottle. This shallow latch can then lead to multiple issues; an infant constantly breaking latch, falling asleep at the breast or the bottle, aerophagia (excessive air intake), upset stomach, excess spit-up and gas, inability to gain weight, and general discomfort. A tongue tie can also lead to severe discomfort and pain for the breastfeeding mother, which can include clogged ducts and mastitis. If the tongue is unable to elevate and rest on the palate during times of sleep or rest, the upper jaw will not grow and expand correctly. This can lead to a decrease in space for teeth, a smaller airway, and potential growth and orthodontic problems down the road.
A tongue tie for children and adults can cause severe speech problems. It can also make it difficult to move food around the mouth effectively, causing some people to struggle with textures of various foods. A tongue tie can also cause excessive gagging. If the tongue is not able to move freely, food and plaque stay on teeth longer without a natural way to be cleansed. A tongue tie can also lead to jaw pain, sore muscles in the head and neck area, and potentially sleep problems.
Fortunately, there is a very simple solution for those who struggle with tethered oral tissues. The solution is a procedure called a frenectomy (sometimes called a frenotomy). Simply put, it is the removal of excess tissue that is causing restriction, thus allowing for full function and mobility. The procedure is very quick, lasting anywhere between 15 and 60 seconds. At Mountain View Pediatric Dentistry, we use a modern laser to perform this procedure. Lasers have been used safely in the dental field for over 30 years. The laser seals the blood vessels as it works, so the procedure is clean and virtually blood-free. The laser is also bactericidal, which means it kills bacteria on contact, thereby ensuring a clean healing site that is extremely unlikely to get infected. It is also particularly efficient, able to provide a full release without the use of a scalpel, scissors or stitches. This procedure can often be performed in our office, without the need for sedation or general anesthesia!
If you are struggling with feeding your infant, please reach out to a lactation consultant and a pediatric dentist. If you have any questions or concerns about lip ties or tongue ties for your kids or yourself, please let us know! We are happy to see patients of all ages, from newborns to adults.