Awareness of infant lip tie and its effects on feeding, dental, and general health is on the rise. This has led more parents to seek lip tie release to help their babies’ breastfeed. But what about those who still have lip ties later in life?
Lip ties in older children and adults get much less attention than in infants. Unfortunately, the much more complicated demands of their environment make the consequences of lip tie more severe and devastating. However, there is hope. In this article, you’ll learn more about the life-changing benefits of lip tie release and what you can expect from the procedure.
Quick Facts on Lip Ties
According to the National Health Service, lip ties are due to an unusually short, thick, or tight labial frenulum (a membrane the connects the upper lip to the gums). The exact cause of lip ties is still unknown, but it is considered a congenital condition and does not develop after birth.
Because the movement of the upper lip is restricted, the most common symptoms of lip tie in babies and young children are feeding difficulties, speech delays, and dental issues. As one grows older, however, the list of symptoms expand to include:
- Frequent dry lips
- Chronic pain in the shoulder, neck, and back
- TMD (Temporomandibular Disorders)
- Inadequate height/weight for age because of feeding problems
- Sleep apnea
- Mouth breathing
- Gapped and crooked teeth
- Periodontal disease
- Anxiety and depression
- Maladaptive habits to compensate for the effects of lip tie
- Teeth grinding
- Tooth and gum sensitivity
- Digestive diseases and issues
- Chronic fatigue
Since few medical professionals at present are trained to identify lip ties, WebMD advises consulting dentists trained in sleep disorders, ENTs, and oral surgeons familiar with the condition if you think you or your child have it.
Lip Tie Release in Older Children and Adults
Lip tie release is a generally simple and minimally invasive procedure that only takes a few minutes to complete. Complications from lip tie revision are very rare. One of the most common methods is called a frenectomy.
The Mayo Clinic describes this procedure as releasing or clipping the labial frenum to allow for greater freedom of movement. Traditional frenectomy involves scissors to clip the membrane. There’s almost no pain since the frenulum does not have a lot of blood vessels and nerves.
On the other hand, your dentist might suggest the use of a laser to revise the tie. Laser lip tie surgery offers unique benefits such as:
- Little to no bleeding
- Better visibility means enhanced precision
- Total removal of labial frenum
- Very short treatment time
- Minimally invasive
- Much less trauma to layers beneath affected area
- Rapid recovery and healing
- Less chance for reattachment
Frenectomy for simple lip ties is typically a quick outpatient procedure that does not require the use of numbing drugs.
For a frenulum that’s too thick, however, your dentist might suggest a frenuloplasty instead. The patient is put under while the doctor cuts the frenulum and finishes up with soluble stitches. Either way, both procedures have amazing success rates and positive results are immediate.
Recovery After Lip Tie Release
The wound can take between three to seven days to fully heal. Allow for some post-op discomfort. Your dentist might prescribe mild pain killers before and after treatment. You might also experience some soreness and swelling.
You may eat right after the treatment, but if there was anesthetic involved, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia suggests waiting until it wears off. Avoid spicy or hot food for a few days to avoid irritating the surgery site, and consider a liquid diet for a few meals if solid food hurts your gums. To avoid the lip tie from reattaching, massage the site gently and lift the lip up about three times a day.
Benefits of Lip Tie Release
For many patients, improvements after lip tie revision are immediate. They are able to speak clearly and chew food properly. Other benefits include:
- Being able to breathe through the nose
- Small structural shifts in the mouth and face
- Reduce tension and pain
- Boost in mood
- Improvement in posture
- Better sleep
- Better dental health
Of course, some changes require more time to become obvious. For instance, speech therapy is highly recommended after lip tie revision to correct speech patterns that developed to compensate for the lip tie. Orthodontics might be needed to fix gap tooth irregularities stemming from a lip tie. Your dentist will help you develop a recovery plan to address the issues caused by the condition.
Older children and adults suffer the most from lip ties, but they are also the least diagnosed demographic. Fortunately, a person can break free from lip ties at any age. In the hands of a dentist trained in lip tie release, it won’t take long before you can finally experience normal function and improve your quality of life.