Tongue Tie And Lip Tie Revision
What is Tongue-Tie?
The tongue and lip are a very complex group of muscles and are important for all oral function. For this reason having tongue-tie can lead to nursing, eating, dental, or speech problems, which may be serious in some individuals.
Signs of Tongue-tie and Lip Tie
Future dental problems that can arise from Tongue-Tie or Lip-Tie
When Should Tongue-Tie and Lip-Tie be Treated?
A new baby with a too tight tongue and/or lip frenulum can have trouble sucking and may have poor weight gain. If they cannot make a good seal on the nipple, they may swallow air causing gas and stomach problems. Such feeding problems should be discussed with Dr. Sierra. Nursing mothers who experience significant pain while nursing or whose baby has trouble latching on should have their child evaluated for tongue and lip tie. Although it is often overlooked, tongue and lip tie can be an underlying cause of feeding problems that not only affect a child’s weight gain, but lead many mothers to abandon breastfeeding altogether.
In Toddlers and Older Children
While the tongue is remarkably able to compensate and many children have no speech impediments due to tongue-tie, others may. By the age of three, speech problems, especially articulation of the sounds l, r, t, d, n, th, sh, and z may be noticeable. Evaluation may be needed if more than half of a three–year–old child’s speech is not understood outside of the family circle.
As a simple test, caregivers or parents might ask themselves if the child can lick an ice cream cone or lollipop without much difficulty. If they cannot, then it may be time to consult Dr. Sierra or another specialist in tongue/lip tie.
For older children with tongue-tie, appearance can be affected by persistent dental problems such as a gap between the top or bottom two front teeth. The frenum can also pull against the gingiva (gums) on the front or back of the teeth causing recession. In addition to the esthetic problem, this can lead to sensitivity and pain. The tight lip frenulum may trap food, plaque, and bacteria against the teeth. This is a major factor in Early Childhood Caries (nursing/bottle cavities).
Tongue-tie & Lip-tie Revision Procedure
Tongue-tie and Lip-tie revision is a simple procedure and there are normally no complications. The procedure may be performed as early as the day of birth. The revision can be performed in our office. There are anesthesia options for some children if you desire.
Dr. Sierra uses a laser to perform the revision. A cream to numb the area can be applied for comfort. Older children who understand the procedure usually report no pain at all during the procedure. Younger children and babies usually object and cry. This is usually a response to being with their mouth open. The parents are asked to wait outside of the room during the quick procedure.
The laser gently removes the frenulum tissue with virtually no bleeding. Stitches are not required. The baby is allowed to nurse or feed immediately after the procedure!
What to Expect After tongue-Tie Release
The discomfort from lip and tongue-tie release usually only lasts for about 24 hrs, although in older children the discomfort may last about 48 hrs. If a lip-tie was released, you may notice some swelling of the lip for a few days after the procedure.
For babies, breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact provide natural pain relief, however, your child may need something for pain for the first 24-48 hrs. Acetaminophen (Tylenol), and homeopathics are both effective forms of pain relief. What you give is a personal decision based on what you are most comfortable with.
If you are giving medication, please check with Dr. Sierra or your pharmacist for the appropriate dose and to make sure that the medication is right for your child. Remember that dosages should be based on a child’s weight, not age. Children under the age of 2 months should not be given ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil) and children should never be given aspirin due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome. Topical numbing ointments containing benzocaine (ex. Orajel/Anbesol) should not be used due to health risks.
There is usually very little bleeding with tongue and lip-tie revision, especially if a laser is used. If your child experiences any bleeding after the procedure, direct pressure on the area should quickly stop it. The areas where the ties were revised will be white or yellowish in appearance, This is normal healing and is not an indication of infection. Full healing takes a few weeks.
One of the most important things to understand when your child has a tongue and/or lip-tie revised is that improvement is rarely immediate. The revision of the frenulum is usually just the first step. Your child will need some time to figure out what to do with the new mobility of their tongue and lip.
Post-Tongue-Tie Release Exercises for Babies and Toddlers
Stretching exercises after lip and tongue-tie release help to reduce the risk of reattachment and the need for further procedures. You will begin stretching exercises on the day of the procedure, stretching 6 times in 24 hours. Stretches should be quick, you only need to hold them for 3-5 seconds. We will show you how before the procedure. Children usually don’t like the stretches, and they may cry or fuss but they should calm down quickly once you are done.
The tongue is a muscle, and it becomes used to functioning in a certain way just like any other muscle in the body. When tongue function is restricted by a tongue-tie, the body adapts. Since the tongue isn’t able to function the way it’s supposed to, other muscles have to help compensate. In turn, the muscles that are compensating for the restricted tongue function now aren’t doing their job properly, so more muscles have to help compensate. When a tongue-tie is released, the child has no muscle memory of how to use their tongue without the restriction. It takes time for the brain to figure out how to use it effectively once the tie is released.
How Babies Adapt
As mentioned above, it is very normal to not notice much difference in nursing to start with. Sometimes there may even be a little bit of regression in sucking (things get worse instead of better) for a day or two as your child’s brain tries to sort out how to use their tongue now that the restriction is gone. If you have been pumping and/or supplementing prior to the release of your child’s tongue and/or lip-tie, any changes to your routine should be made very gradually as you keep an eye on your baby’s weight gain.
We’re here to answer your questions, and we want you and your child to know your options! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at any time.
Dr. Sierra, Dr. Kwon, Dr. Patel and our team are here to help guide you and your child. We offer kinder, gentler dentistry for kids and teens. It is our goal that your child develops and maintains a positive association with dental care and we do everything we can to create a pleasant, supportive, and fun environment for our little patients.