Tongue/lip tie is a serious medical condition that should be taken care of early on in a child’s life. If left untreated, it could potentially cause oral or facial development issues.
Getting ahead of this condition is important so you can protect your infant from difficulties later on in their lives, many dealing with their oral health.
And that’s what matters most to our pediatric dentists at Little Heroes Dentistry. While we may not offer remedies for tongue or lip tie, we do offer some insight on how to identify and treat it.
What is Tongue/Lip Tie?
Tongue/Lip tie is when a muscle in your mouth, called the frenulum, causes resistance when the tongue or lip tries to lift itself. A frenulum is a connective tissue membrane that attaches to one surface of your mouth to another surface, causing resistance. This prevents your tongue or your lip from moving too far in any direction.
There are three different type of frenulum, but two we will focus on:
Lingual frenum- this is the tissue or webbing that connects your tongue to the bottom of your mouth.
Labial frenum- the webbing that attaches the inside of your top lip to the gum, as well as the bottom lip to the bottom gum.
How Do I Know if My Child Has Tongue Tie?
When checking your infant for tongue or lip tie, noticing where the frenum starts and stops is a good indicator. You may also want to take note on how thick or thin it feels like.
Using a clean finger, run your finger under your child’s tongue and over their gums. If your child has a normal tongue you should have one swift motion under the tongue.
Other symptoms you or your child may encounter are:
- Trouble breastfeeding
- A forked tongue/unusual tongue shapes
- Ulcers in the teething stage
- Excessive drooling
- Lisp or unclear when speaking
If you detect any bumps or anything else unusual, you should contact your pediatric dentist at Little Heroes Dentistry.
How Does it Affect a Baby (and Children)?
An extended lingual frenum could make it difficult for babies in many ways such as:
- Difficulty nursing, making it harder to get the proper amount of nutrition for growing infants.
- A weak bond between mother and child
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty introducing hard foods
There are also consequences for mothers as well as pain, damage to the nipple resulting in bleeding or distortion, mastitis, feeling sleep deprived, depression, or pain while latching your child.
If this condition of being “tongue-tied” is not treated before entering toddler years, parents will notice that the child will experience a more difficult time speaking compared to other children their age. In children, some more difficulties they could face are:
- Unable to chew solid foods properly
- Delayed/deteriorating speech
- Acting out/behavior problems
- Frequent gagging or choking on foods
It is sometimes difficult for dentists or pediatricians to detect this issue, even during routine check-ups. The first signs of tongue-tie are likely to be revealed when the child enters a school-like environment. Children with an elongated frenulum may have trouble speaking or extending the tongue. There are some cases where the child has difficulty and is uncomfortable while swallowing.
What Happens If Left Untreated?
The consequences of an untreated condition such as a tongue or lip tie depends on a couple different factors such as age or how serious the condition is.
If left untreated into adulthood, there are many things that your child could suffer from like:
- Pain in the jaw
- Poor dental health
- Being conscious of your enunciation when speaking
- Unable to open their mouth widely
- Difficulty speaking
- Emotional toll
How to Correct it?
In most cases, a speech pathologist will suggest a procedure called frenectomy. A frenectomy is the removal of one or both of the frenulum. A typical frenectomy can usually be performed in the first few weeks of birth with minimal pain and also performed rather quickly. This will allow your child to speak clearly and without trouble.
The frenectomy procedure could take anywhere from 10-15 minutes to complete.
In the case of a lip tie this may be an orthodontic problem. If a frenulum extends too far down near the gumline, it can directly interfere with the growth in the spacing of the two front teeth. If this is the case with your child, it is important to make sure that their adult teeth have grown into place before making any orthodontic decisions like getting braces. In most cases, letting the adult teeth grow into place will fix the gap caused by the elongated labial frenum.
At Little Heroes Dentistry, We Care About Your Children’s Oral Health.
Getting a doctor or other healthcare specialist to perform a frenectomy is a surefire way to prevent future dental complications resulting from tongue and lip tie.