Lip and tongue ties can cause multiple problems, beginning with difficulty nursing in a newborn, to speech difficulties and gaps in between the front teeth.
A lip or tongue tie is due to an unusually large or lower than normal, frenulum attachment in the mouth. The frenulum is a fold of tissue that attaches your top lip to the gums and attaches the tongue to the floor of your mouth. It helps to secure your lips and tongue in the proper position and prevent abnormal movement. In some cases, the frenulum can be too large or extended and needs to be reduced to a normal size.
If the frenulum of the upper lip is unusually large or has a lower than normal attachment, it can cause difficulty in newborn babies being able to eat, as they will find it difficult to have the suction required, especially when breastfeeding. As the child grows, if the frenulum actually connects to the gum tissue in between the front teeth, extending to the roof of the mouth, this can contribute to the separation of the front teeth.
If the frenulum is not reduced, a separation may remain with the permanent teeth. Or it may relapse back into a separation if orthodontic treatment has been done. Often it is necessary to surgically reduce the frenulum to allow the teeth to come together, either naturally or with orthodontic treatment.
A Frenectomy is usually a simple procedure carried out by an experienced dentist. It is typically pain free, done with a local anaesthetic. Modern dental advancements allow this to be done with a laser which can reduce postoperative discomfort and bleeding. A small ulcer may be present following the procedure, but it usually resolves itself within a few days without much trouble. The soft tissues of the mouth have an amazing ability to heal quickly.
As mentioned above, the tongue is attached to the bottom of the mouth by a lingual frenulum. If the frenulum is attached beyond a certain point it can cause complications. Early complications are the same as with a lip tie. There are issues with a newborn’s ability to achieve the suction required to eat. This is especially a problem with breastfeeding as the child is unable to latch on effectively.
Other complications may arise later on in the child’s life. A tongue tie can lead to delayed speech. This happens because the tongue’s range of movement is limited, making it difficult to create and pronounce certain sounds. Misaligned teeth may also be caused by a tongue tie.
A tongue tie is usually diagnosed at the child’s birth. It can be treated very effectively within the first few weeks after the baby’s birth. It is a simple procedure of simply cutting the very thin tissue of the frenulum, thus “releasing” the tongue. This is typically done with a topical anaesthesia, usually a gel. Correcting a tongue tie can be very helpful in alleviating nursing complications as well as future speech impediments.
As with the surgery for a lip tie, there are usually very few complications following the procedure. A small ulcer may be present for a few days, but other than that it is a simple and straightforward procedure.