What is the difference between lip-tied and tongue-tied?

A band of tissue known as the lingual frenulum ties the underside of the tongue to the bottom of the mouth and can restrict the movement of the tongue, the severity of which depends upon how tight the tissue is. This is commonly known as tongue-tied. When the tissue behind the upper lip is very short or tight and restricts movement of the upper lip, this is commonly known as lip-tie. This tissue is called the labial frenulum.

A lip-tie can cause issues with infants feeding, particularly if they are breastfeeding as they are unable to latch on correctly. This could result in poor weight gain but also restrict teeth coming through or when they do, cause them to be uneven. In more severe cases, it could cause excessive air to be swallowed whilst trying to latch on, which could in turn cause colic.

This creates an unhappy cycle of events as the mother will become anxious when trying to feed her infant and the infant is constantly hungry.

Consult sooner rather than later

Both lip-tie and tongue-tie are operable conditions and will involve a consultation with your dentist who will perform a full examination and discuss with the parents the best course of action. If it is advised to perform surgery, this will be explained in full detail.

The procedure, known as a frenotomy, is sometimes still carried out using surgical scissors although some practitioners now use a laser to cut the frenulum, generally using a local anaesthetic. There may be some slight discomfort and bleeding, and in very rare cases, the bleeding can be excessive. The dentist will explain any complications that may occur and how they are dealt with.

Don’t give up

Lip-tie and tongue-tie are usually dealt with in young children under 12 months of age as they can lead to further issues if left untreated, such as being constantly hungry, spitting up whatever milk they can get, and being a painful experience for the mother which can result in her giving up breastfeeding altogether.

Sadly, this doesn’t have to happen, with the correct diagnosis and treatment. If you suspect there may be a chance your infant has tongue or lip ties, make sure to see a paediatric dental practitioner who will advise you on the best course of action for both you and your child. If left untreated, it can result in other issues later on in life.

Give extra TLC

Your child may need extra cuddles and attention after the procedure, but you will also be advised to breastfeed as soon as you can, to ensure a strong bond and an improved feeding regime.