Parenthood comes with its own set of challenges. So it’s no wonder that many parents (and medical professionals) overlook tongue and lip ties, especially when they do not appear severe. Typically, as long as a child is latching ok, nothing is said about the condition. But these ties, when left untreated, can have a significant impact on a child’s development and overall well-being. Recognizing the symptoms associated with tongue and lip ties (also called tethered oral tissues) is crucial in order to provide timely intervention and support for affected children. With my years of expertise in treating tongue and lip ties, I see a lot of symptoms that many may at first seem attributed to something else. Ties can impact many aspects of a child’s (and adult’s) life! Here are my top symptoms to look out for that could indicate your child (or yourself) is actually suffering from a tongue or lip tie.
Defining Tongue and Lip Ties:
Tongue and lip ties occur when the frenulum, the small piece of tissue connecting the tongue to the floor of the mouth or the upper lip to the gum, is unusually short, tight, or thick. These restrictions can limit the range of motion and hinder the proper functioning of the tongue and lips, leading to various symptoms in children. Sometimes ties are easily noticeable and treated quickly after birth. But sometimes these ties are not as pronounced and go undiagnosed. When that happens, a child’s development can be impacted.
- Breastfeeding Difficulties: One of the first symptoms is how well a child latches when breastfeeding. Infants with these ties may have trouble latching onto the breast, causing pain and discomfort for both the baby and the mother. Poor weight gain, frequent feeding, dehydration, and clicking sounds while nursing are also common signs. If you’re breastfeeding and have since birth experienced any of the symptoms above, reach out to a lactation specialist who may be better able to identify any ties impeding a good latch.
- Speech and Language Delays: As children grow older, tongue and lip ties can affect their speech development. Difficulties in articulating certain sounds, particularly those requiring the tongue to move freely, may be observed. Speech delays and unclear pronunciation can persist if the ties are left untreated.
- Dental Issues: Tongue and lip ties can contribute to dental problems, such as improper alignment of the teeth or a gap between the front teeth. Difficulty cleaning the teeth and gums thoroughly due to restricted tongue movement may also increase the risk of cavities and gum disease.
- Oral Motor Challenges: The restriction caused by tongue and lip ties can impact oral motor skills. Children may have difficulty licking their lips, sticking out their tongues, performing coordinated movements required for eating solid foods or engaging in age-appropriate activities like blowing kisses.
- Digestive Discomfort: Tongue and lip ties can also affect the swallowing process, potentially leading to digestive issues. Children may experience excessive air swallowing, reflux, or colic-like symptoms due to the inability to create an effective seal during feeding.
- A Heart-Shaped Tongue: Another tale-tell sign of a tie is the shape of the tongue itself. In tongue ties, the tie can pull the tip of the tongue inward, creating a heart-shaped effect.
Seeking Proper Diagnosis and Treatment
Recognizing the symptoms is just the first step. It is crucial for parents and healthcare professionals to work together to ensure a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment for children with tongue and lip ties.
Pediatricians, lactation consultants, and dental professionals with expertise in oral function can accurately assess and diagnose these conditions. A multidisciplinary approach involving specialists from various fields can offer comprehensive support and guidance for affected children and their families.
The most common treatment option is called a frenectomy. This procedure involves releasing the restricted frenulum or tethered oral tissues. These relatively simple procedures can be performed under local anesthesia and have proven to be safe and effective in improving tongue and lip function. At my tongue and lip tie specialty clinic, The TOT Spot, we provide laser frenectomies. These are performed with a CO2 laser for a safe, effective, and comfortable solution.
Understanding the symptoms associated with tongue and lip ties in children is crucial for early identification and intervention. By raising awareness about this often-overlooked condition, we can empower parents to seek proper diagnosis and treatment, ensuring that their children receive the support they need for optimal oral development, breastfeeding success, speech and language acquisition, and overall well-being. Together, let us prioritize the health and happiness of our little ones by recognizing the signs and advocating for their holistic care.