Infant Tongue and Lip Ties
By Dr. Simi Silver

Are you having trouble breastfeeding?

If your nursing relationship with your child has been strained due to a lip or tongue-tie, we can help.

Dr. Silver has experienced this first-hand and is passionate about helping moms just like her. The best part? A simple laser procedure for your child may be all that is needed.

What is a Tongue Tie?

Tongue tie (ankyloglossia) occurs when the band of tissue below the tongue (lingual frenum) is abnormally thick or restricts range of motion. This condition is developmental, since it arises before birth, and research estimates that between 4-11% of infants have a restricted frenum.

A tongue tie can affect nursing, bottle feeding, and also have a negative impact on growth and development from childhood into adulthood.

What problems occur from having a tongue tie?

A tongue tie can affect breastfeeding in an infant in many different ways, but generally a poor latch leads to inefficient milk transfer and the baby has no choice but to compensate. Often a tongue-tied baby with a restricted tongue will attempt to nurse by chomping or gumming the nipple, popping on and off the breast, and breaking the seal, leading to excess intake of air and a clicking noise when nursing. Mom experiences nipple pain and trauma as well as poor milk transfer which can lead to decreased milk intake, a drop in milk supply, poor breast drainage, feelings of frustration, failure, guilt and shame, and premature weaning.

A tongue-tied adult may have a history of speech therapy, mouth breathing, a high arched palate and narrow jaws, crowded or misaligned teeth, acid reflux, and snoring or sleep apnea.

What is a Lip Tie?

Lip tie occurs when the tissue attaching the upper lip to the gum tissue (l abial frenum) is abnormally thick, tight, or inelastic. If the lip can't flip up without the frenum attachment blanching (turning white), this reduced range of motion can lead to problems.

What problems occur with a lip tie?

A lip tie can lead to problems with nursing, bottle feeding, eating solids, and increased risk for cavities. During nursing, the upper lip needs to flare out to create a seal on the breast for a good latch. A poor latch can lead to excess air intake and gassiness.

In an older child, a tight frenum can cause pain when parents try to lift the lip to brush the top front teeth and can also trap food against the teeth and lead to dental decay.

How is a Tongue or Lip Tie Treated?

A frenectomy (or "release") reshapes the tissue under the tongue or upper lip to allow for better range of motion. After a thorough evaluation, this procedure is performed to allow for the tongue and/or the lip to function properly during swallowing and/or latching at the breast or bottle. Any frenectomy procedure is always preceded by a consultation with the parents about how the ties might be affecting the child as well as what the potential benefits of treatment may be.

What are the benefits?

Benefits usually include better lip and/or tongue function to improve swallowing and/or latching at the breast or bottle, along with better development of the oral cavity and airway. At this point, the parents can then choose how they would like to proceed.

Babies May Experience:

  • Better milk transfer
  • Less gassiness/fussiness
  • Longer periods of sleep
  • Better weight gain

Moms May Experience:

  • Reduced nipple pain/cracking/bleeding
  • More efficient feedings
  • Better breast drainage/reduction in clogged ducts or mastisis

Benefits of Laser Frenectomy

  • The laser "vaporizes" rather than cuts the tissue
  • Very little discomfort is experienced
  • There is almost no bleeding
  • Less risk of infection
  • Very quick healing time as the laser stimulates bio-regeneration and healing

At Silver Dental Centre, Dr. Silver uses the WaterLase iPlus Erbium laser as her tool of choice