What is tongue-tie

Lip and Tongue Tie: Understanding the Condition and Its Treatment



Lip and tongue tie are oral conditions that can have significant effects on various aspects, including breastfeeding, speech, and dental health. This article aims to provide an in-depth understanding of lip and tongue tie, their prevalence, diagnosis, treatment options, and potential long-term effects. If you suspect that your child may have a lip or tongue tie, it is essential to gather the necessary information to determine the next steps.

What is Lip and Tongue Tie?

Lip and tongue tie are oral issues that develop during fetal development due to a gene mutation passed on as a dominant trait. In the case of tongue tie, ankyloglossia, the baby is born with a short or thick frenulum, which restricts the movement of the tongue. The frenulum is a small band of tissue that connects the floor of the mouth to the bottom of the tongue.

Prevalence of Lip and Tongue Tie

The exact prevalence of lip and tongue tie is still unknown. Current evidence suggests an occurrence rate of 3 percent to 5 percent, with a range of 0.1 percent to 10 percent, depending on the evaluation criteria. Some healthcare providers estimate the prevalence to be as high as 25 percent, but more research is needed to establish accurate figures.

Diagnosis of Lip and Tongue Tie

A child’s pediatrician or primary care doctor can diagnose lip and tongue tie. However, lactation consultants may often be the first to notice these conditions while evaluating breastfeeding difficulties. Common signs and symptoms include nipple pain and trauma for the mother and issues such as latching problems, clicking sounds, and poor milk transfer for the infant. If concerns arise, further evaluation by an ear, nose, and throat doctor or a pediatric dentist may be recommended.

Treatment Options for Lip and Tongue Tie

The decision to treat lip and tongue tie depends on the severity of the condition. Mild cases may be monitored without immediate intervention, while more significant cases may require a procedure called frenotomy or frenectomy. Frenotomy involves releasing the lingual frenulum, which is a simple and quick procedure usually done in a doctor’s office. It may be followed by daily stretches to prevent tissue regrowth.

There are different techniques for performing frenotomies, including using scissors or lasers. The choice of technique depends on the healthcare provider’s preference and the specific case. It is crucial to provide symptomatic support through lactation consultants, speech pathologists, and occupational therapists to ensure comprehensive care.

Effects of Lip and Tongue Tie on Breastfeeding

Lip and tongue tie can significantly impact breastfeeding. These conditions can prevent a proper seal and hinder suction, leading to pain and ineffective latching. Difficulties with breastfeeding can result in decreased milk supply, swallowing excess air, and poor weight gain. While more research is needed, it is well-documented that lip and tongue tie can cause problems in breastfeeding infants.

Long-Term Effects of Untreated Lip and Tongue Tie

Untreated lip and tongue tie can have consequences beyond infancy. Dental occlusion and orthodontic health issues may arise, but further research is still necessary to establish the extent of these effects. Speech articulation and oral biomechanics may also be affected, potentially impacting the way a child pronounces words. It’s important to note that not all cases of lip and tongue tie have long-term effects, as oral functioning can compensate for restricted movement as a child grows.

Other Oral Ties

Apart from lip and tongue ties, there are other oral ties that may affect infants. Upper lip tie refers to the attachment between the upper lip and the gums. While all newborns have some degree of attachment, a tight or rigid upper lip tie can hinder movement and cause feeding difficulties. It may also contribute to tooth decay and dental issues as the child’s teeth emerge. Buccal tie, extending from the cheeks to the gums, is another rare condition that can occur in some babies.

Research regarding the diagnosis and treatment of upper lip ties is still ongoing, with more evidence-based recommendations needed.


Lip and tongue tie are oral conditions that can have a significant impact on breastfeeding, speech, and dental health. Understanding their prevalence, diagnosis, treatment options, and potential long-term effects is essential for parents and healthcare professionals. If you suspect that your child may have a lip or tongue tie, consult with your doctor, midwife, or lactation consultant to receive appropriate evaluation and guidance. By addressing these conditions, you can help improve your child’s overall oral health and well-being.

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