Tongue tie and lip ties can come up very early in a baby’s life, especially if they are having issues breastfeeding. If your provider has thought that a lip tie may be harming your breastfeeding, I’m going to share what happens and also where you can get it fixed if needed.
Hi, I’m Hilary — I’ve been a nurse since 1997 starting out with pediatrics, and I have 20 years of labor and delivery experience which has allowed me to see a LOT of tongue-tied babies and see first hand how it can affect breastfeeding. I’m excited to talk to you about something that a lot of parents don’t know about that can really affect your baby’s ability to feed even early on.
Also, this post is sponsored by Palm Valley Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics – Scottsdale, if you are looking for Pediatric Dentistry in Scottsdale AZ check them out! I’m grateful that they’re so willing to sponsor an informational post about how parents can help their babies feed better. Big thanks to them!
What is Tongue Tie and Lip Tie?
Tongue tie, also known as ankyloglossia, is a condition where there is a tight band of tissue connecting the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth (called the lingual frenulum). This can restrict the movement of the tongue, causing difficulty with activities such as breastfeeding, eating, and speaking.
Similarly, lip tie is a condition where the frenulum, the tissue that attaches the upper lip to the gum, is too thick or tight, limiting the movement of the lip.
Tongue and lip ties are common in infants and children, and can lead to frustration for both the child and caregiver. Fortunately, there is a simple laser surgery procedure that can easily correct both tongue and lip ties. By releasing the tight band of tissue, the movement of the tongue or lip is improved, resulting in easier breastfeeding and improved oral health. Seeking medical attention for tongue or lip ties can greatly improve the quality of life for both infants and caregivers alike.
Note: Everyone has these tissues that connect our lips and tongues to our mouth, but sometimes babies are born with them too tight or restrictive that can affect their mouth movements, and most especially breastfeeding problems.
Lip or tongue tie release has actually come a long way since I’ve been a nurse, so I’m excited to share with you some more recent developments in this arena.
Here some photos of the tongue and lip tie:
Photos courtesy of Palm Valley Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics in Scottsdale
(as someone who had their tongue tie clipped as a teenager, I mostly remember a lot of blood, so how little blood is in the area is amazing for me!)
Symptoms of a Tongue Tie
A trained practitioner can check movement of the lips and tongue to see if it is an issue, but there are other symptoms we watch for as well, including:
- Difficulty latching at the breast
- Poor weight gain (not getting enough milk)
- Excessive drooling
- Difficulty breathing while at the breast
If you think that tongue tie might be an issue, contact your lactation consultant, pediatrician or pediatric dentist for a consultation.
How Can a Tongue-Tie or Lip-Tie Affect My Child?
In infants, both lip and tongue ties can have a significant issue with breast or bottle feeding. These conditions can make it difficult for the infant to achieve a proper latch or to use their mouth to get milk, causing nipple pain and making feeding a frustrating experience for both the infant and the mother.
For lip tie as you can imagine if you are supposed to flange your lips to massage the breast to get milk (as that’s how breastfeeding works) if you can pull that top lip high enough it can affect how much milk you can get.
For tongue tie the tip of the tongue often can’t extend far enough out of the mouth to get enough milk from the breast. This can actually also cause issues with bottle feeding if it is bad enough.
In both of these instances babies may make other movements that can hurt the breast in an effort to get fed, or they may just not get enough milk because of how their mouth is able to move.
How common is tongue-tie?
The prevalence of tongue-tie is not clearly established due to varying definitions and diagnostic criteria across studies. However, it is estimated that up to 10% of newborns are born with tongue-tie, with a higher incidence in males.
Who diagnoses a tongue-tie?
Symptoms of tongue-tie include difficulty achieving a comfortable and effective latch, nipple pain, and a decrease in milk supply. There are various professionals who can diagnose tongue-tie, including a pediatrician, lactation consultant, or a pediatric dentist. Of these professionals, a lactation consultant (IBCLC) is typically the most experienced and knowledgeable about lactation and breastfeeding, and may be the first point of contact for parents struggling with breastfeeding.
Dentists, both general and pediatric, can also diagnose tongue-tie as they specialize in the oral cavity and its structures. Both lip-ties and tongue-ties can contribute to breastfeeding issues, but a lactation consultant or pediatrician may refer parents to a dentist for diagnosis and treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment of a tongue-tie is crucial for the health and success of breastfeeding for both the infant and the mother.
How is tongue-tie treated?
Here’s where the big tech benefits are coming in to save us parents! Back in the day they used to just cut it with scissors, which — as you can imagine — leads to a lot of bleeding, and possibly not healing right.
Now, the most advanced tongue and lip tie repair centers use a CO2 laser. It is super fast, quick and heals great as you saw in the pictures above! Be sure to find a center near you that offers that! If you’re in the Phoenix area check out Palm Valley Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics!
What is a Tongue/ Lip Tie Release or Frenectomy?
It really is just as it sounds. They just clip a bit of the problematic tie (so the one holding your lips to your gums or the one holding your tongue to the bottom of your mouth) to free it up and allow more movement.
This procedure is called a Frenectomy here, but most people just call it a “release” as it allows the tongue and lips to move freely.
What are the post-procedure protocols after lip tie surgery?
Your provider is going to tell you signs and symptoms to watch for in your child. They are also going to give you some exercises to do with your baby so that it heals correctly. There is a chance that the tongue-tie will re-attach (although less so with the CO2 laser) — which would be super annoying. So, those exercises help keep full movement in the tongue or lip (or both).
Schedule an Appointment
This really isn’t something you want to wait for, you’ll want to schedule an appointment ASAP. If you’re in the Phoenix area you can do that right here.
That will take you right to the Palm Valley Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics web page. They are using cutting-edge (pun intended) tools to give your baby the quickest, easiest and tongue tie release available. One of my FAVORITE things about their office is that they have an in-house lactation consultant in some of their offices. I think it would be fantastic to have that type of support!
Why use a dentist vs a pediatrician for a tongue tie or lip tie release?
This is a great question, and one that I 100% had as well. I mean, if you’re already at the pediatrician’s, why not just use them. Well, the thing is pediatricians really don’t do much with the mouth. Honestly, if there is much beyond very simple issues a pediatrician will refer you to someone else because they truly just know the very basics.
Versus a dentist who does surgery in the mouth all day. They’re used to cutting, moving, adjusting things IN the mouth. That’s ALL their training. Studies are really showing that the best care (ESPECIALLY in healing and follow-up to make sure it doesn’t re-attach) is with a dentist, not a pediatrician. You really need a thorough examination to determine if the release is necessary, and a dentist is your best practitioner to do that for you.
In the Phoenix area that is best found with the tongue and lip tie release specialists at Palm Valley Pediatric Dentistry. You know they really have these newborns at heart when they make room in their office for a lactation consultant (the only place in the valley that has that). I love that. 🙂
Can a Tongue Tie Affect My Child as they Grow Up?
While most people agree that if the tongue or lip tie isn’t severe enough to indicate cutting it now, you don’t want to cut it “just in case” there are ways that a tie can affect your child as they grow older.
In addition to these immediate feeding issues, tongue-tie can also lead to gum recession and other dental problems down the road. If left untreated, a tongue-tie can also affect speech development. Identifying and addressing a tongue-tie or lip-tie early can lead to a more comfortable and successful breastfeeding experience, and may prevent future dental and speech problems.
Why else would my baby need to see a dentist?
The newest recommendations are that baby see a dentist around their first birthday (or 6 months after their first tooth if they’re an especially late-teether). At this point in time they can help make sure those teeth are healthy, assess any gum issues and make the dentist a fun experience for baby.
As a mom who has done both, taking a little one to a pediatric dental office is a GAME CHANGER vs many regular dentists, so I’d definitely recommend finding a pediatric one in your area.
Tongue Tie Faq’s
Is tongue tie genetic?
It may be some genetics, but I do know parents who had one baby with tongue tie, and others who had full range of motion, so it really varies. You just have to check with each child to see if it’s an issue.
Does tongue tie affect speech?
It can cause issues with speech. However, as I’ve said before you don’t want to cut a tongue tie that is doing alright now, in anticipation of what it could be down the road. So, just treat what you have going on now.
What to expect after tongue tie release?
In infants, the hope is that the baby will be able to feed better right away. The latch should be easier/better and baby should not struggle to eat.
However, as breastfeeding can sometimes be problematic due to a variety of issues you can’t always count on the tongue tie release to solve ALL your problems. Some people may still struggle even after the lip tie (although now you know that isn’t your problem and can work on other things).
Disadvantages of clipping tongue tie?
The main one is the possibility of bleeding or infection, as well as any pain the patient will experience. That’s why you only want to clip a tongue tie if an experienced provider thinks it is necessary.
Tongue tie surgery cost
Palm Valley Pediatric Dentistry charges $500 for the consult and both procedures (so, if she decides your baby does not need to released, you’d still need to pay the $100 consult fee, fyi).
It looks like the average price is around $700 for each procedure, but that is going to vary wildly between practices and locations — so you can always call your provider to see if they can offer you a cash pay price, or your insurance to see if you can submit the bill for reimbursement.
Lip tie problems later in life
If the problem isn’t fixed when the baby is young there can be problems later on. Tongue tie release can be performed later in life, so talk with your dentist if you think you or your older child has an issue.
As you can tell, it is pretty simple to fix, but can be a BIG issue for babies in regards to feeding and possibly even later development, so being assessed by a trained professional can help you know if your baby has this issue. If you are in the Phoenix area please do check out Palm Valley Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics. They have three offices to serve you (and one opening soon in Chandler). They can help you solve this problem quickly and efficiently.