Does it seem like your baby has a hard time moving their tongue or upper lip? Are you having problems breastfeeding, or have you noticed your child has a hard time eating or speaking? These can be signs of tongue tie and lip tie. Our dentist can help identify and treat these conditions to reduce the risk of complications from lip and tongue tie.
Ask the Dentist About Tongue Tie and Lip Tie
Tongue tie and lip tie are both somewhat common conditions that can cause many different symptoms, including difficulties breastfeeding. If you suspect your child may have a tongue tie or a lip tie, a pediatrician or a family dentistry professional can help with diagnosis and treatment. Typically the dentist will talk about the symptoms you’ve noticed and conduct an oral exam to look for potential causes. Lip tie and tongue tie are conditions caused by abnormal frenum which restrict movement for the tongue or top lip.
What is a Frenum? Can the Dentist Diagnose an Abnormal Frenum?
To understand why lip tie and tongue tie are a problem, it’s important to understand what a frenum is. Essentially, this is a small piece of soft tissue that helps connect and stabilize your top lip and tongue.
You can find one frenum under your tongue and the other between your gums and your top lip. Simply look in the mirror, open your mouth, and lift the tongue up. The thin piece of tissue that runs from the bottom of your mouth to your tongue is your lingual or tongue frenum. Now, close your mouth and lift your top lip up to show your teeth and gums. Here, you’ll find another thin piece of tissue that goes from the inside of your top lip to the gums between your front teeth. This is your labial or lip frenum.
Most people have these two frenum in their mouths. Seeing these in your baby’s mouth doesn’t mean they have a tongue tie or lip tie. However, when the frenum grow in abnormally, they can cause tongue tie or lip tie. Often the frenum isn’t included in regular checkups with the pediatrician unless there are other symptoms that might suggest tongue tie or lip tie.
What is Tongue Tie?
Now we know what a frenum is, let’s discuss what a tongue tie is. As we mentioned, most people have a lingual frenum that connects their tongue to the bottom of their mouth. However, if this frenum is abnormally short or tight, it can cause tongue tie. This is essentially a condition that makes it difficult for the tongue to move normally. A baby with a tongue tie may be unable to stick their tongue out, their tongue may appear heart-shaped or square, and they may experience issues breastfeeding. In most cases, your baby won’t be diagnosed with a tongue tie unless it interferes with normal activities, as tongue tie can look very different in each person.
Some potential issues associated with tongue tie in babies include:
- Losing suction during breastfeeding
- Sliding off the nipple during breastfeeding
- Getting extremely tired during or after breastfeeding
- Noisy breastfeeding
- Excessive gas
- Reflux symptoms
If not treated, tongue tie can also lead to weight loss or difficulty gaining weight in babies. Over time, it may also cause issues with eating, speech, and even breathing in children and adults.
What is Lip Tie?
Lip tie is very similar to tongue tie, except in this condition the frenum restricts movement for the top lip. Just like tongue tie, typically doctors and dentists don’t diagnose lip tie unless it causes symptoms that interfere with everyday activities like breastfeeding or speech.
Lip tie can often cause breastfeeding symptoms that are very similar to those associated with tongue tie. For example, difficulty latching and staying latched, gassiness, and reflux symptoms. Also, your child may have both a tongue tie and a lip tie at the same time. Babies and children with a lip tie may also have a higher risk for cavities and tooth decay. This is because it can prevent normal movement for the upper lip and cause milk to pool around the top teeth and gums.
Laser Frenectomy Treatment for Lip and Tongue Tie from the Dentist
If either the lip frenum or the tongue frenum interfere with normal activities, then your doctor or dentist may recommend a frenectomy. This procedure helps release part of the frenum to help your baby move their lip or tongue freely. Frenectomy can be performed with either surgical scissors or a specialized surgical laser. Our dentist typically performs frenectomy with a laser.
There are many benefits to using a laser to release a lip or tongue tie, including:
- Little to no bleeding
- Little to no discomfort
- Can often breastfeed immediately after
- No stitches or sutures needed
Lip and tongue tie revisions with laser frenectomy typically only take a few minutes to complete. In many cases, the dentist can perform this with local anesthesia to help numb the area before severing the problematic frenum. Recovery is generally quick and easy for babies after a frenectomy.
If you believe your child might need a frenectomy to release a tongue tie or lip tie, you’ll likely go to a pediatric dentist near Katy, TX like Dr. Taha for the procedure.
Is Frenectomy Only for Babies?
We’ve talked a lot about lip tie and tongue tie in babies and how frenectomy works for infants. However, family dentistry professionals can perform frenectomy on patients of any age. While most lip and tongue ties are found during infancy, sometimes they’re not diagnosed until childhood or adulthood. For instance, lip tie and tongue tie may not interfere with breastfeeding during infancy, but they might affect speech and eating later on.
In addition, untreated lip tie and tongue tie can cause orthodontic and jaw issues later, often because of abnormal mouth movements to help compensate for the lack of mobility for the upper lip and tongue.
If the dentist discovers any signs of lip or tongue tie later on, they can still perform a frenectomy to help free the tongue or upper lip. However, it’s important to note that recovery may be a little more difficult in adults than in babies and children. Also, the later on the lip tie or tongue tie is detected, the more likely the patient will need speech therapy and other therapies to help “re-learn” how to move the mouth after a frenum release.
Experienced Family Dentistry at The ToothBooth
Need a dentist? Our team at The ToothBooth offers quality dental care, including oral surgeries and laser treatments for soft tissues like abnormal frenum. Our team includes an experienced anesthesiologist to help with local anesthesia, general anesthesia, and sedation for dental procedures. Whether you need laser dentistry procedures or are looking for pediatric dental care, our team is here for you. Call us today at (832) 437-0841 to schedule an appointment!