Lip ties and tongue ties are common amongst young children, but many parents don’t even know that they exist. They struggle to determine what might be “wrong” with their children to no avail. Do you know how to identify a lip tie or tongue tie?

If you suspect that your child has an abnormality in their mouth, we want to talk about one possible cause. Keep reading to learn all about identifying and treating lip ties.

What Is Lip Tie?

To understand lip tie, take a look (and feel) into your own mouth. There’s a thin piece of flesh that runs from the topmost part of your inner lip to your gums.

The size of this piece of the flesh varies. It’s called the maxillary labial frenum, and they range from being almost unnoticeable and stretchy to short and sturdy enough to cause problems.

Most adults can feel it with the tip of their tongue. For some, there doesn’t appear to be anything at all, and for others, it can cause irritation or get in the way with rough brushing or oral piercings. These varieties are normal.

When someone is born with a lip tie, the maxillary labial frenum is shorter and tighter than the normal range. This limits the movement of the upper lip.

While it’s not certain it is likely genetic. In other words, nothing that a parent did during pregnancy caused the lip tie.

What Problems Can Arise from Lip Tie?

Lip ties aren’t always problematic. Some babies grow up with lip ties and never have a problem. If you recognize that your baby has a lip tie, but they aren’t showing any symptoms, you may not need to move forward with treatment.

With that in mind, though, some babies with lip ties have difficulty with breastfeeding. This is most common when the lip tie is paired with a tongue tie.

Your baby may have trouble latching despite all of your best efforts. This could result in your child losing weight or failing to gain weight, which could harm their development.

After breastfeeding, your child may have trouble eating baby food or solid finger foods.

If your child latches well and grows into a healthy toddler, it’s possible that a lip tie could cause dental problems. While there’s no absolute consensus on the matter, some pediatricians and pediatric dentists believe that a lip tie increases the chances of tooth decay.

Signs and Symptoms

Lip tie isn’t difficult to catch if it’s significant enough that you’d want to seek treatment for it. You’ll notice early on if your child is having difficulty with eating.

For anyone unfamiliar with latching problems, these signs might be unfamiliar to you. You want to look for any indication that your child is struggling to get enough to eat.

The first sign is visible frustration both during and after a breastfeeding session. A child who isn’t having trouble breastfeeding will be relaxed and happy during and after. A child who can’t get enough milk may have a furrowed brow and make unhappy noises while trying to latch.

After trying to breastfeed, you may notice that your child is irritable. This could be due to reflux (a common result of an inability to latch) and fatigue.

If your child is failing to thrive, it’s another sign of lip tie. Failure to thrive means that your child isn’t gaining or maintaining weight at an appropriate level based on their development stage.

If you hear clicking or smacking noises while your child is trying to breastfeed, it indicates that they’re unable to get a tight latch (potentially as a result of a lip tie).

Finally, if your child is nursing all the time without gaining weight, a lip tie might be the cause.

Lip Tie Treatment

Once you and your pediatrician have determined that your child has a lip tie, treatment is simple.

Some pediatricians may suggest that you wait for treatment or try alternative methods first. For example, they may suggest manual therapy methods to help loosen the frenum or special nipple shields.

When a lip tie is significant enough, surgical lip tie treatment is an option. It’s a quick procedure in which the doctor will sever that tight frenum so it no longer gets in the way. This is called a frenectomy.

After the Treatment

Rest assured that a lip tie surgery is easy, quick, and safe. The healing time is minimal and your baby shouldn’t feel too much discomfort. Anyone experienced in sedation dentistry for kids knows how to keep pain levels down in even the youngest patients. If your baby is fussy, ask your doctor about safe pain-relief options.

Your breastfeeding woes may not disappear right away, but as your child heals, you’ll discover that they’ll have an easier time latching and nursing. It’s a good idea to talk to a lactation consultant to help your baby learn to nurse with a healed mouth.

Your doctor might give you a list of stretches or therapeutic movements to do for your baby. This stretching will help with the healing process.

Does Your Child Have Lip Tie?

If you suspect that your child has lip tie, it’s some to seek out a pediatrician or pediatric dentistry professional. They will assess the problem and help you figure out what next steps are right for your baby.

Your baby needs to be able to eat in order to thrive, and even if you decide to bottle-feed, a lip tie can cause other problems in the future. Take care of it early on.

If you’re looking for an experienced professional who knows all about dentistry for kids and how to treat a lip tie, we’re here for you. Dr. Amy Luley at our tongue and lip tie center knows all about lip and tongue ties, and she can guide you through the process. Contact us and set up an appointment today.