What does a tongue-tie do to my kid?

A tongue-tie or lip tie is a congenital condition in which the frenum of the tongue or lip is excessive and tight, reducing mobility and function. During embryological development, this tissue reduces naturally. When this fails to happen, we see the presence of a “tongue-tie” and/or “lip-tie”. It’s also collectively known as TOTs or “Tethered Oral Tissues”.

These midline defects may cause problems at birth, which may lead to symptoms that exist for a lifetime. They are also very common, with anywhere from 12-25% of people having them!  Many expect this condition to take a classic appearance in which the frenum reaches the tip of the tongue. While this is sometimes the case, many times a posterior tongue-tie exists that is much more difficult to identify. While still under the front of the tongue, these are submucosal and limit the elevation of the mid-tongue necessary for proper breastfeeding, and in the end, limit jaw growth. A fully functional and clinical assessment must be completed in order to properly diagnose a tongue-tie or lip-tie.

Symptoms of a Tongue or Lip Tie

A tongue/lip that remains abnormally attached may be responsible for any of the following symptoms in an infant:

  • Poor latch quality/difficulty maintaining latch
  • Colic, reflux symptoms, excessive gassiness, spitting up, or hiccups
  • Difficulty with milk transfer/poor weight gain/failure to thrive
  • Frustration at the breast
  • Mouth breathing or snoring
  • Falling asleep at the breast and short sleep episodes
  • Frequent/extended nursing cycles
  • Clicking, gumming/chewing of the nipples
  • Choking, gulping, gasping at the breast
  • Leaking milk from the corners of mouth/improper seal
  • Inability to flange upper or lower lips
  • White coating on the tongue

Symptoms experienced by the mother may include:

  • Severe pain when breastfeeding
  • Breast trauma/bleeding, creasing, blanching, cracking, bruising, blistering
  • Mastitis, plugged ducts, incomplete breast drainage
  • Supply dropping
  • Being told “it’s your fault.” Wrong shaped nipples, baby doesn’t like your milk, etc.

Untreated tongue and lip ties can cause bigger health problems as children and adults.

Request an evaluation by a qualified dental professional if you suspect something is wrong!  A minor outpatient frenectomy can have a huge benefit for tongue-tied kids! 

To learn more about our general dentistry services in Lakewood, CO, visit this page here. To learn more about pediatric-specific dentistry services at our Lakewood, Colorado dentist, visit this page.

About the Author

Dr. Elizabeth Turner is a whole-health, family dentist in Lakewood, CO who provides general, restorative, and cosmetic dental care. She focuses on the mouth-body connection and helps her patients smile confidently, breathe clearer, and live healthier lives. 

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