Lip tie is a condition in which the labial frenulum, a strip of tissue between the upper lip and the upper gums, is unusually short or tight. It restricts lip movement to a great degree and disrupts numerous developmental processes. Unfortunately, very few parents and medical professionals are aware of the harmful effects of lip tie. Among those who do know the condition, many still believe that it’s something a child can grow out of and is not serious enough to require treatment.
Learning the symptoms of lip tie is a big step towards getting it diagnosed and corrected. In this article, we will take a close look at the warning signs that a kid has lip tie and how to confirm it.
The negative effects of lip tie are evident as early as the first breastfeeding. Because the lip cannot move properly, the baby is unable to create an adequate seal for successful suction. Here’s a comparison of a proper and improper seal:
Normal Upper Lip versus Lip Tie During Breastfeeding
Source: Speech Pathology Graduates
Struggles with nursing include:
- Shallow latch
- Failure to sustain the latch
- Spilling and dribbling
- Colic and reflux
- Feeds that take too long
- Refusal to nurse
- Chewing and gumming on the breast
- Inability to use a bottle or a pacifier
- Restlessness and irritability after feeding
- Sliding off the nipple
- Falling asleep at the breast
- Lack of coordination between breathe, suck, and swallow patterns
- A callous on the upper midline of a baby’s lip
Breastfeeding Support also stresses that mothers suffer as well when their infant has lip tie. Typical signs are:
- Bleeding nipples
- Cracked nipples
- Pain during breastfeeding
- Inadequate milk supply
- Inefficient emptying of the breast
More Feeding Challenges for Children with Lip Tie
As a baby starts getting weaned off the breast or bottle, the difficulties just continue. These are some of the challenges they face as they graduate to spoon feeding and finger feeding:
- Failure use the top lip to clean the spoon
- Fatigue and inefficiency during spoon feeding
- Inadequate stimulation of the gum tissue which leads to oral sensitivity
- Abnormal swallowing patterns due to lip restriction
- Poor appetite
- Inability to swallow, chew, and bite food properly
- Development of selective and hesitant eating due to texture and food aversions
- Choking and gagging on food
Lip ties also affect dental health significantly. Limited lip movement prevents the child from cleaning and brushing the teeth thoroughly. In addition, food is often trapped between the lip and the gums which accelerates tooth decay. This can eventually lead to periodontal disease in adults.
On top of this, lip tie can cause a gap to form between the front teeth. Worse, these negative effects tend to continue despite a child’s attempt at practicing good dental hygiene.
Correct lip movements are essential to speech development. Speech Pathology Graduates warn that a child with lip tie may find it hard to pronounce certain sounds and might talk with a lisp. To compensate for the restricted movement, they often speak too fast or too slow. Because of this, speech therapy is strongly advised following lip tie treatment during childhood and adulthood.
Some children and adults with lip ties also complain of jaw pain, neck pain, incorrect jaw posture, and migraines in connection to the tie.
How “Flipping the Lip” Can Help You Spot Lip Tie
If all of these problems sound familiar, your child (or you yourself) may have a lip tie. Pediatricians, lactation specialists, and dentists encourage people to just “flip the lip” in order to check for the presence of a labial frenulum. Parenting site Mommypotamus describes several steps to checking for a lip tie:
- Place the baby on another person’s lap, with the head facing the same direction as you are and the feet facing away from you.
- Check the lip for a lip callus.
- Examine the sucking pattern. Weak sucking and compression at the front of the mouth can indicate a lip tie.
The Bulbous Section on this Lip is a Lip Callus
If you think a lip tie is present after taking these steps, then it’s time to take your child to a dentist or lactation specialist trained in lip ties to confirm the diagnosis and explore treatment options such as a frenectomy, also known as snipping the lip tie.
Bottom Line: Harmful Effects of Lip Tie
Knowing the signs and symptoms of a lip tie will go a long way towards helping a child receive correct treatment and diagnosis. If you suspect that your child has a lip tie, schedule an appointment with a dentist trained in sleep disorders As Soon As Possible.