tongue tie

Lip or tongue ties can have a lasting impact on your child.

In recent years, many studies have revealed just how beneficial breastfeeding can be for both you and your baby, causing many organizations, including the World Health Organization, to recommend that mothers breastfeed their babies whenever possible. Unfortunately, however, conditions like a lip or tongue tie can make breastfeeding difficult for your baby and painful for you—and it may have lasting impacts on your child. Finding out where you should go to address this problem can be difficult and riddled with long wait times to see specialists, but our staff at Must Love Kids, works with lactation specialists to provide your family with the timely answers and solutions you need. If you’re just starting to look into the potential causes of your baby’s difficulty nursing or a slightly older child’s speech issues, we’ve provided the basics on lip and tongue tie—and how our office can help.

What are lip and tongue ties?

If you examine your mouth, you’ll see a thin bit of soft tissue, called the frenulum, stretching from the base of your tongue to the floor of your mouth and another, called the labial frenulum, connecting the inside of your upper lip to your gums. In children with a tongue tie, this membrane can be too short and rigid or can extend farther across the bottom of the tongue than it should, restricting the tongue’s movements and sometimes even “tying” it to the floor of the mouth. A lip tie involves exactly the same problem with the labial frenulum restricting the movement of the upper lip.

There are varying severities of lip and tongue ties; some children have mild cases of one of these issues without experiencing any negative effects, while other children have severe enough cases to require speech therapy or surgical treatment. While there’s some evidence that lip and tongue ties have a genetic cause, scientists still have a lot to learn about the condition and aren’t sure exactly what causes them.

What are the symptoms of lip or tongue ties?

Since lip and tongue ties can cause babies to have difficulty creating the necessary suction to breastfeed, you may notice that your baby has trouble latching onto your breast, makes clicking sounds or spills milk from their mouth during nursing, or suffers from colic or reflux. Your baby may also seem constantly hungry or exhausted after nursing, and breastfeeding can become painful for you. While some children will have an easier time feeding from a bottle, others continue to struggle whether they’re fed directly from your breast or from a bottle.

Lip and tongue ties can affect older children, too, sometimes causing speech delays or impediments since it can be hard for your child to make sounds that require them to arch their tongue or touch it to the roof of their mouth. In some cases, speech therapy can help your child overcome this, but other children may need a more direct surgical treatment. They may also be unable to stick their tongue out past their lips, which can interfere with your child’s ability to do simple tasks, like lick an ice cream cone.

How do I know if my child has a lip or tongue tie?

The best thing you can do to determine whether or not your child may have a lip or tongue tie is to educate yourself using information from reliable sources; this will help you know what signs you can look out for. If your child has a few symptoms that match up with a lip or a tongue-tie, do your best to examine their mouth to see if the movement of their tongue or upper lip is restricted. You should also schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician, lactation consultant, speech therapist; although diagnosis is sometimes very easy, it can also be difficult because the symptoms of lip or tongue ties line up with several other issues. This is why being informed is your best weapon in your fight for your child. Listen to your doctor’s opinion and be open to other diagnoses, but don’t be afraid to get a second or third opinion if a doctor isn’t listening to you—you know your child better than anyone else and you see their symptoms daily.

Will a lip or tongue tie hurt my child?

The effect that a lip or tongue tie has on your child depends upon how severe their individual case is. Plenty of children have mild lip or tongue ties that cause absolutely no problems and don’t require any treatment at all, while others experience one or two minor symptoms that fade over time, either due to the skin relaxing a little or with the help of less invasive treatments, like speech therapy.

In more severe cases, however, a lip or tongue tie can cause a lot of issues for your child. If your child is having difficulty breastfeeding, for example, they can seem constantly hungry because they’re not able to get enough milk at each feeding, have trouble gaining weight, and may even be diagnosed with failure to thrive. In addition to speech impediments that can’t always be helped with therapy, older children may experience difficulty eating and an increased amount of tooth decay because their tongue is unable to sweep food debris from their mouths.

How can Must Love Kids help resolve lip or tongue tie?

When a child is experiencing major issues from their lip or tongue tie, a pediatrician or a pediatric dentist like Dr. Mo, Dr. G, can resolve a lip or tongue tie with a quick and simple procedure. During this procedure, your kids’ dentist will numb your child’s mouth with a topical anesthetic and use our LiteTouch laser to painlessly cut the frenulum. The procedure takes less than five minutes and immediately gives your child’s lip or tongue a normal range of movement; babies should be able to nurse normally We use laser dentistry for kids instead of traditional dental tools because it causes less bleeding and inflammation, helps your child heal faster, and greatly reduces the chance of infection. Your kid’s dentist will give you directions for how to care for your child after their procedure, which will include exercising the lip or tongue to strengthen it and keep the frenulum from reattaching.

While lip and tongue ties aren’t always severe enough to cause major issues for your child or require treatment, more severe cases can hinder your child’s growth and health, affect their ability to perform tasks as seemingly simple as licking an ice cream cone or speaking, and may negatively impact their self-confidence. If you suspect your child’s symptoms are the result of a lip or tongue tie, we’re here to help! You can call our Must Love Kids Vancouver Pediatric Practice to schedule an evaluation with one of our expert pediatric dentists right away.