Every year, thousands of children are diagnosed with tongue-ties or lip-ties that make nursing, eating, and speaking difficult. In the U.S., treatment is easy and readily available in the form of a simple procedure called a frenectomy.
A lot of our patients who bring in children with tongue or lip ties have never heard of the disorder. To help them out before they get into the office, we’re breaking down the differences between a tongue and lip tie, what a frenectomy actually is, and why your child might need one.
What’s a tongue-tie?
The frenulum is the thin band of flesh that attaches the tongue to the bottom of the mouth (called the lingual frenum) and the upper and lower lip to the gums (called the labial frenum). Most people don’t really notice these tiny bands of flesh because they’re so small. Of course, like most things in the body, they have an important purpose that, when disrupted, can have serious consequences.
Kids who are tongue-tied have an underdeveloped lingual frenum. In the womb, that piece of flesh never thinned out. This keeps the tongue from moving properly which, in turn, means difficulties eating and speaking.
What’s a lip-tie?
A lip-tie occurs when the labial frenum extends downward into the gum line too far, interfering with nursing and, later on, tooth development. A severe lip-tie can restrict baby teeth from coming in properly, causing misalignment issues for years to come. You can easily check for a lip-tie by attempting to gently pull your baby’s upper lip away from the gums. If the labial frenum is extended far down into the gum line and it is awkward/difficult to pull the lip from the gums, your child most likely has a lip tie.
We recommend bringing babies who may have a lip-tie or tongue-tie into our office for a full exam. Lip-ties can inhibit babies from nursing properly and can cause more serious problems down the line.
In many non-severe cases, babies can grow out of lip and tongue ties. There are simple exercises your child can follow to help release the tightened labial frenum or lingual frenum. In time, there’s a good chance the problem will go away on its own.
In other, more severe cases, patients with tongue or lip ties may need to undergo a quick and non-invasive surgery called a frenectomy. During a frenectomy, Dr. Bobbi uses a guided laser to remove a very small portion of the labial frenum or lingual frenum. As with most oral procedures, the healing period is relatively fast and, because the surgery uses a laser, there is no bleeding. Within a week or two, your child will be feeding and talking better than ever.