Breastfeeding is one of the earliest and most important milestones in an infant’s life. The mother and child bond deeply through nursing, and the baby receives many fundamental nutrients. However, a little-known condition called lip tie can make this a frustrating experience. It can also lead to significant developmental deficits over time. If you suspect your child is suffering from this condition, learning key lip tie facts is a step in the right direction.
Discover what you need to know about this issue and what you can do about it in the article below.
What is Lip Tie?
The upper gum and the upper lip are connected by a small strip of tissue called the maxillary labial frenulum. A lip tie happens when this membrane is too tight, too thick, or too short, therefore restricting movement.
Not everyone has it, but according to Healthline, it’s normal to have a maxillary labial frenulum. Its presence doesn’t always lead to a lip tie. If there are no problems resulting from its presence, then we can say that an infant simply has a labial frenulum.
The key to diagnosing lip tie is finding out whether that labial frenulum restricts upper lip movement or not. If your child can’t move his lips properly due to that membrane, he probably has a lip tie.
Lip Ties and Tongue Ties
Lip ties can occur in conjunction with another oral malformation called a tongue-tie. They are very similar, except with tongue tie the abnormal frenulum is located between the tongue and the bottom of the mouth. Tongue tie currently remains little-discussed except in breastfeeding circles and select specialists, but it’s quickly gaining traction among the medical community as new research and data emerge.
In comparison, lip tie awareness is even lower than tongue tie. Because so many lip ties go undiagnosed, numerous older children and adults continue to suffer. The good news is that lip ties can be corrected quickly and easily at any age once you know what you’re looking for.
Is your child in danger from lip tie?
Not immediately, no. A lip tie is not life-threatening by itself. But the restricted movements of the mouth can, and often do, cause unwanted consequences. The very first time a baby latches to the breast it becomes an unpleasant experience for both the mother and child. It only grows worse as the child grows bigger and starts to perform more complex actions.
One of the most common lip tie facts is breastfeeding difficulties. Symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing during nursing
- Acting extremely tired after nursing
- Clicking or loud sucking sounds during breastfeeding
- Difficulties latching
- Inadequate milk transfer
- Lack of or slow weight gain
- Irritability and fussiness
- Gas and reflux
- Biting or chewing the nipple
As the infant is introduced to solid foods, he or she might not be able to chew properly and exhibit excessive drooling. It will also be difficult to pronounce certain sounds and to observe good oral hygiene. Once you observe these symptoms, visit a dentist trained in diagnosing lip ties to receive a definite diagnosis.
Causes of Lip Tie
Due to lack of research, the causes of lip tie are still not known. We do know that it forms in the womb and doesn’t develop after birth. Lip ties occur in an equal number of boys and girls.
However, some evidence points to a genetic component. Mama Natural explains that a gene called MTHFR is involved in the formation of the mouth and the lips. A study reported that particular MTHFR mutations increase the possibility of a cleft palate by seven times, which might contribute to lip ties.
In addition, some experts suspect that lip ties may be hereditary. When an infant has a lip tie, it’s common to find a known relative that also has the condition.
Lip ties are divided into four classes depending on where the frenulum is attached:
- Class 1: Little to no visible attachment
- Class 2: Frenulum is somewhere above the gum line edge
- Class 3: Frenulum is located at the very edge of the gumline
- Class 4: Frenulum is attached all the way to the hard palate
Parenting emphasizes that these classes just indicate anatomy, not severity. To determine how severe a lip tie is, the dentist or lactation consultation will try to elevate the lip to mimic the flanging motion required during breastfeeding. How freely the lip can be elevated will show the extent and thickness of the tie.
How to Get a Lip tie Diagnosed
Not all doctors are trained to diagnose a lip tie. In fact, some even deny the existence of lip tie or refuse to treat it, believing that lip ties will go away on their own. If you suspect that your child has lip tie, schedule a consultation with an IBC-certified lactation consultant or a dentist trained in sleep disorders instead.
Bottom Line: Lip Tie Facts
All babies deserve a great start in life. Therefore, even something that seems harmless like a tight frenulum should be given serious attention. Correcting a lip tie as early as possible helps ensure that babies undergo proper growth and development throughout their lives.