It is estimated that 4-11% of all infants are born with tongue tie, also known as ankyloglossia. Tongue tie occurs when a child is born with a short, tight band connected between the tongue and floor of the mouth. This band restricts the movement of the tongue and can significantly interfere with feeding and eventually speech and other important functions.
Lip ties are very similar in that lip ties occur when the frenulum (the band of tissue that attaches the lips to the gums) is thick, too short, or otherwise unusually formed, causing restricted mobility of the lips. Like tongue ties, lip ties can significantly reduce the efficacy of sucking and latching on when an infant is trying to feed causing frustration in the baby and mom alike.
In infants, tongue ties and lip ties often become apparent when the baby has difficulty latching to the breast or bottle during feeding. Other signs that a baby may have tongue-tie included:
When tongue and lip ties are not corrected, in addition to feeding problems, they can lead to problems with speech and thus social interactions, mouth breathing, crowded, gapped or misaligned teeth, narrow or small jaws, sleep apnea and acid reflux in the child and adult.
Treatment for tongue and lip ties involves a frenectomy, a procedure that essentially “releases” the band of tissue that is restricting the tongue and lip(s) by removing part of the frenulum or fascia (other connective tissue) that causes the restriction. The purpose and main goal of a frenectomy or frenuloplasty procedure is to improve tongue and oral function, creating proper development of the teeth, mouth, and jaws. The tongue or lip is then free to better perform their normal functions allowing for proper feeding, speech development and other essential functions.
The optimal timing for tongue-tie release is typically soon after diagnosis in a newborn for some babies. Tongue-tie surgeries used to be performed on all infants with obvious tongue-tie, however, recent studies show that not all babies with tongue-tie need the surgery and many have feeding success with proper encouragement and support from providers. These providers may be certified lactation counselors, cranial sacral therapists, or occupational therapists.
The optimal timing for lip-ties can vary for children and adults. Dr. Britney Green at Strong Ties takes an alternative approach to treating tongue and lip ties. A proper diagnosis is recommended to determine the overall success of the treatment and is greatly recommended to decide on the best relief method.
In young children without permanent teeth yet, a frenectomy may be performed to help prevent the problems listed above.