A lip tie is when the piece of muscleless tissue connecting the upper lip to the upper gum restricts the mouth’s mobility, because it’s too thick, too tight or both. Lip frenulums are located between the upper jaw or maxilla and the inside of the upper lip. The frenulum can vary in thickness, length and connection point from the lip and upper jaw.
What are the causes of lip tie?
The exact cause of a lip tie is unknown, but many studies have suggested that it may be hereditary. There is no way to be certain about this, but a similar condition- the tongue-tie in which a piece of tissue tethers the tongue to the floor of the mouth- is hereditary. About 70% of people with a tongue-tie have said that they have a relative with the same condition. Therefore, researchers believe that, just like tongue-tie, lip tie could be hereditary as well. However, nothing is sure as of yet.
There is also emerging evidence that the MTHFR gene plays a role in the formation of the mouth, including lips. A study done in 2002 reported that those with certain MTHFR mutations have a sevenfold risk of developing a cleft palate. Other studies have suggested that the risk for a cleft palate and lip tie is slightly more in Asian and Caucasian populations, since the MTHFR mutation is more common in them.
That being said, a lip tie isn’t that common. In fact, a tongue tie is much more common than a lip tie, and is much more obstructive during breastfeeding than a tongue tie. A lip tie too can cause some obstruction, since a baby might have trouble flanging the upper lip, leading to a frustrating breastfeeding experience for both, the mother and the baby.
Read More: Tongue Tie in Infants: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Symptoms and Treatment of Lip Tie in Infants Every New Mom Should Know
Lip tie- Symptoms
If your baby has been showing any of these signs during breastfeeding, there is a chance he/she may have a lip tie:
- Being unable to latch deeply, if at all, causing nipple pain and damage
- Having difficulties staying on the breast
- Make a clicking sound
- Spluttering or choking on milk
- Cluster feeding
- Exhibiting poor weight gain
- Developing jaundice
- Being excessively fussy
- Developing colic
If you baby has a lip tie, you may notice these things during and after a breastfeeding session:
- Experiencing pain during feedings
- Having damaged or distorted nipples (sometimes they can turn into a wedge shape)
- Developing engorgement, blocked, ducts, or mastitis
- Having milk supply issues (low supply due to ineffective removal; oversupply due to a demanding nursing schedule)
If you are noticing these signs, you must consult a doctor. The best way to diagnose a lip tie would be to go to a lactation consultant or a holistic dentist who has had experience dealing with lip ties.
Read More: Cleft Lip and Palate in Babies- Causes and Repair
There are four different types of lip ties:
- Class 1:No significant attachment (mucosal)
- Class 2:Attachment mostly into the gum tissue (gingival)
- Class 3:Attachment where the future upper front teeth will be(papillary)
- Class 4:Attachment that extends to the palate of the mouth (papillary penetrating)
These classifications are based on the severity of the attachment. Depending on this, the breastfeeding experience can be painful and frustrating for both, the mother and the baby. Therefore, you must consult a doctor if you suspect that your baby has a lip tie.
Treatment for lip tie
Normally, lip ties, when not severe, do not affect the baby adversely. Sometimes, however, class 4 level lip ties can cause some issues, such as problems in speech. This is mostly because the child will experience pain with opening the mouth and will alter speech sounds that require him to do so, thus making speech appear impaired and slurred.
In breastfed babies, an uncorrected lip tie can cause significant tooth decay, particularly in a baby’s upper front teeth. This is because it can cause milk to stay back in the baby’s upper gum area. You must pay extra attention to oral hygiene once the upper front teeth start coming, to make sure there’s no residual milk in the baby’s mouth after feedings.
A lip tie cannot be cured unless a small surgery is performed. If your baby has a lip tie but it doesn’t affect breastfeeding, most doctors will not recommend a surgery. This is because the case may not be severe and will not affect your child. If you are experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding, though, it will be wise to consider a surgery, since it could otherwise lead to undue pain for both the mother and the child. Such a lip tie could also cause a gap between the front teeth. Doctors normally suggest waiting till the teeth come out to see if the lip tie causes a gap or not.
A laser treatment is available for babies who need a lip tie surgery. Fortunately, it is quite advanced and can perform the task with extreme precision while minimizing the pain. This is the procedure:
- The mother lies on the dentist chair holding her child during procedure.
- The dentist applies a topical numbing agent to the area.
- About 30 seconds later, the dentist uses a small handheld laser to precisely “cut” the lip tie. (Laser—or a strong-beamed light—can cut tissue quickly and relatively painlessly.)
- The baby is now free to nurse or be comforted by mom.
- The dentist will then review post-op instructions such as pain relief measures and post-procedure exercises.
You need to follow these post op instructions carefully and give your baby any recommended medicines. This procedure takes only a few minutes.
Read More: 7 Warning Signs that Your Child Needs Orthodontic Treatment
A lip tie isn’t a very common condition and if it isn’t severe, will not affect your baby in his life. If you see it interfering with breastfeeding or other processes, you must consult a holistic dentist about how best to treat it.