How Tongue Ties and Lip Ties Can Affect Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding isn’t what you expected.

You’ve dreamed of breastfeeding your baby since you found out you were expecting.

Now, the time has come and it’s anything but blissful. In fact, it’s downright frustrating.

If you’re having trouble nursing, there could be a variety of issues at play, from a low milk supply to latching difficulties. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources, such as the ones here, that can help you identify what’s going on and take the steps to correct it.

Yet, what happens when you’ve exhausted all of these options and relief still doesn’t come?

In some cases, a lip tie or tongue tie is at the root of the problem. The best breastfeeding techniques won’t be of much help if your baby is suffering from tongue tie.

The good news? You can still enjoy this special bonding time with your baby! Today, we’re taking a closer look at what it means to have a tongue or lip tie, as well as the options that concerned parents have moving forward.

We hear you, tired mama! 

What is a Tongue Tie or Lip Tie?

First, let’s discuss (in simple terms) what’s going on.

A tongue tie occurs when there’s an issue with the band of tissues that tethers the bottom of your baby’s tongue to the floor of her mouth. That band is called the lingual frenulum, and we all have one.

In a tongue-tied baby, the band doesn’t look or function as it should. It’s either too short and tight, or attached way up at the top of the tongue. Both variations affect and shorten the tongue’s range of motion.

A lip tie, on the other hand, occurs when the piece of tissue behind your baby’s upper lip is too thick or stiff. Referred to simply as her “frenulum,” this tissue is normally thin and flexible. When it’s more rigid, it makes it difficult for a baby to move their lip freely.

Developmental Complications

Both tongue ties and lip ties can affect your child’s long-term development.

You’ll first notice the signs as you begin to breastfeed or bottle-feed. Children with these oral complications tend to have a more difficult time achieving a proper breastfeeding latch. To overcompensate, they often try to suction even harder, which can make an already-sleepless night that much more painful.

Whether you take a laid-back breastfeeding approach or you’re on a more regimented schedule, you know the importance of a successful feeding session. That’s why it can be maddening to end a marathon session and still wonder if your baby got enough to eat. Watching your baby latch on and then release or try aimlessly to achieve suction can be disheartening.

In general, these babies often have a more difficult time gaining weight than their peers. They also tend to be more gassy, colicky, and fussy due to their inadequate intake.

This is a trend that can continue into childhood, as tongue and lip ties can hinder their ability to eat from a spoon or consume certain finger foods. Other issues that can stem from these complications include:

  • Early dental decay and periodontal disease
  • Speech delays
  • Difficulties swallowing
  • Issues with articulation or pronunciation

Wondering how to get baby to latch? Ready to fix this issue now before it leads to any of the issues mentioned above? It’s time to schedule a visit with a pediatric dentist.

The Importance of Evaluation

As a parent, you know every square inch of your child. You’ll likely be able to spot a tongue or lip tie before anyone else. Still, it’s critical to bring her in for an evaluation from a dental evaluation. 

Our expert pediatric dentists, Dr. Cooper and Dr. Day, are well-versed in both of these conditions. They’ll be able to spot the immediate red flags, as well as other underlying concerns that often go unnoticed. If they determine that your baby is indeed struggling with a tongue or lip tie, they’ll explain exactly what’s going on and answer any questions you might have.

They’ll also educate you on the option of pursuing a frenectomy. This simple surgical procedure can reverse your child’s tie, ease your breastfeeding woes and help the whole family get a little more sleep at night. Let’s take a look at what you can expect with this process.

How the Revision Process Works

Before a frenectomy, a pediatric dentist from our team will speak to you about the issues you’re experiencing. We’re also happy to talk with your pediatrician or lactation consultant to learn more about your specific concerns.

On the day of the surgery, our dentists will administer general anesthesia to your child to make sure she’s comfortable the entire time. Then, we’ll use innovative laser technology to excise either the lingual frenulum (for a tongue tie) or frenulum (for a lip tie).

Why use a laser?

It offers a quicker, gentler, and more precise approach than traditional surgical methods. It also minimizes blood loss, lowers the risk of infection, and doesn’t require the use of sutures. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) cites that such lasers can be beneficial when used to perform soft tissue procedures in infants and children.

Another plus? You’ll also appreciate that a laser frenectomy can quicken the recovery process, as there is less swelling and discomfort.

Why It Pays to Be Informed

While there are now less invasive ways to reverse a tongue or lip tie, the medical community as a whole is still studying these conditions. As research into the topic continues, they’re uncovering more details on exactly how they can affect children from birth onward.

The bottom line? This is an ongoing conversation with new participants added every day.

As a concerned parent, it’s critical that you do your research. Rather than hopping on social media and asking your circle of followers for advice, seek actual medical counsel instead.

Vetting your sources is key in this regard, as everyone you meet might have a different armchair theory on what you should do next.

At the end of the day, you’re more in tune with your baby than anyone else. We’re here to listen to your concerns, offer professional advice, and guide you in the right direction.

Find Dental Care for Your Kids Today

When you discover that your child has a unique condition, such as a lip tie or tongue tie, it can feel like the end of the world.

Thankfully, while their scientific names might sound scary, these issues are more common than you might think. They’re also more treatable than ever before.

That’s where Spinnaker Pediatric Dentistry comes in. Our doctors offer free evaluations for tongue tie. After carefully examining your precious baby’s mouth, our dentists can help direct you to the best course of action and can recommend the proper treatment. Our team even offers a simple surgical procedure called a frenectomy. During a frenectomy, our dentists address the troublesome tissue to help resolve your child’s issues. Of course, we always keep your child perfectly comfortable. We’re also happy to consult with your baby’s pediatrician or lactation consultant about their problem. Let us know if you suspect your child may be experiencing lip or tongue tie. We are always ready to help.

We’re dedicated to providing the ultimate pint-sized patient experience. We’ve seen it all, and even the fussiest babies don’t phase us. Request an appointment today to discuss your lip tie or tongue tie concerns and stop stressing. We’re in this together, one smile at a time.