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A lip tie occurs when the tissue connecting a baby’s upper lip to the mouth is too short or thick, limiting the upper lip’s movement. It can also interfere with breastfeeding and proper weight gain for babies.
The piece of tissue associated with lip ties, known as the superior labial frenulum, provides stability to the upper lip.1 If you run your tongue between the top of the gum and your upper lip, you can feel your labial frenulum.
You can check for a lip tie by inspecting your baby’s labial frenulum. If they have a lip tie, you will see the tissue attached to the gum at a lower level than normal. You should take them to the doctor for diagnosis and treatment, as a lip tie can interfere with healthy growth..
A severe lip tie is often easy to see. A baby’s labial frenulum may attach to the gums or even close to the teeth, causing a gap between the two upper front teeth.
Other common symptoms of a lip tie include:
Toddlers with an untreated lip tie may also have trouble pronouncing certain words.
A lip tie can interfere with breastfeeding if it’s severe enough. However, not every class of lip tie will cause problems. In milder cases, the baby can continue breastfeeding comfortably and gain weight normally.
Breastfeeding might be a challenge in the case of a Class IV lip tie. Your baby may not be able to or constantly lose the nipple.
If you notice that your child is not nursing effectively due to a lip tie, here are some tips to help you feed your child effectively:
Class I and II lip ties don’t typically require treatment. Treatment is usually recommended for Class III and IV lip ties.
With a less severe lip tie, you can work with a lactation specialist on any breastfeeding issues.
For more restrictive lip ties, doctors typically recommend a lip tie release, also called a frenectomy.
A frenectomy involves cutting off a piece of tissue from the labial frenulum to help loosen it.7 This may be accomplished through painless laser surgery or a scalpel or scissors after the baby is given a local anesthetic.
The process of preparing for, performing, and recovering from a frenectomy consists of the following steps:
A frenectomy is painless for your baby and is easy to heal from.
Severe lip ties in babies typically cause the following complications if left untreated:
There is no known leading cause of upper lip tie in children.2 However, a genetic component seems likely.
Lip ties can run in families or occur in children with other problems that affect the face or mouth. A common co-occurring birth defect is a cleft palate, where the tissues that form the roof of the mouth do not connect.3 Children with cleft palate often have lips that do not develop properly.
Your doctor or dentist can diagnose your baby with a lip tie based on a quick physical examination.
Talk to your pediatrician if you notice your child having difficulty breastfeeding or moving their upper lip. You can also consult with a lactation specialist or a pediatric dentist.
Lip ties can be classified into four classes based on severity:6
A class I lip tie is a normal frenum attachment that doesn’t require treatment.
A class II lip tie refers to a frenum that attaches to the gum somewhere above the gum line. It is typically asymptomatic but can cause hygiene issues or tears from trauma if left untreated.
A class III lip tie refers to a frenum that attaches to the area where teeth will grow or to the alveolar ridge. It makes it difficult to lift the lip without blanching.
A class III lip tie may cause a gap between the front teeth. It can also make oral hygiene difficult, resulting in an increased risk of tooth decay.
The most severe case, a class IV lip tie refers to a frenum that extends to the palate, or roof of the mouth. Your doctor will recommend treatment to prevent tooth decay and problems with oral hygiene.
Since children are born with or without lip ties, there’s no way to prevent it. For severe cases, early diagnosis and treatment are vital to the baby’s successful recovery.8
A lip tie is a condition in which the labial frenulum, or the tissue between the upper lip and gums, is too short or thick. The cause of a lip tie is unknown but may be genetic, as babies are born either with or without one.
Not all lip ties need to be treated. If your baby’s lip tie interferes with breastfeeding or their lip mobility, consult your pediatrician. They can easily diagnose your child by evaluating their upper lip.
A frenectomy, also known as a lip tie release, is a quick surgical procedure that treats a severe lip tie. Your dentist will numb your baby’s lip and use a laser or a scissor to cut part of the frenulum. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential for your baby’s healthy development.
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