lip tie
Experts differ on whether to correct a lip tie or not, which means treatment largely depends on its severity and presenting symptoms.

Experts differ in opinion about whether a lip tie, also referred to as ankyloglossia, needs to be corrected. While some experts say that correcting a baby’s lip tie can improve their feeding, others might recommend letting the lip tie correct itself as the lips’ attachments grow. The treatment of a lip tie largely depends on its severity and the presence of any symptoms.

The correction for lip tie can be done by a surgery called a frenectomy. This procedure involves cutting the attachment (frenum) using a surgical scissor or laser.

The pediatrician will evaluate the baby’s condition and decide if surgery is right for the child. Treatment is generally required if the lip tie is severe enough to cause major problems, such as problems with feeding, poor or lack of weight gain, or if the lip tie extends into the palate region.

What causes a lip tie?

It is normal to have some frenum lip attachments. However, a lip tie with unusual lip attachments, such as a tight labial frenulum (the membrane connecting the upper lip to the upper gums), can be caused by some inherited conditions that include:

  • Infantile hypertrophic pyloric stenosis
  • Ehlers–Danlos syndrome
  • Holoprosencephaly
  • Ellis-van Creveld syndrome
  • Oro-facial-digital syndrome

Additionally, most babies who have lip ties also have tongue ties, which is a condition that restricts the tongue’s range of motion. Tongue tie usually results from an unusually short, thick, or tight band of tissue that tethers the tongue’s tip to the mouth floor.

What are the signs and symptoms of a lip tie?

A person may be able to identify a lip tie in their baby just by looking at the attachment of the lips. They may suspect a lip tie if their baby has the following signs and symptoms:

  • Slow weight gain or not enough weight gain
  • Irritability
  • Taking longer than usual for feedings
  • Difficulty in breathing during feedings
  • Clicking noises while feeding
  • Drooling of milk while feeding

Additionally, if the baby has a lip tie, people might face breastfeeding problems, such as:

  • Pain during or after feeding
  • Swollen, painful breasts

If a lip tie persists till adulthood, the signs and symptoms include:

Many of the symptoms above are also present in tongue ties.

How is a lip tie diagnosed?

A lip tie is usually only diagnosed if the baby is having trouble moving their lips because the attachment is too short and tight, similarly to the diagnosis of a tongue tie.

The baby’s pediatrician will look for unusual lip attachments. They might ask the mom to breastfeed and watch them do so to identify problems with the baby’s sucking and poor latching.

Lip tie may be diagnosed later in life during a dental exam by a dentist.

How should you feed a baby with a lip tie?

If a baby has a lip tie, they may find it more convenient to drink from a bottle. Parents might pump breast milk into a bottle and then give the same to the baby. This is absolutely fine until the diagnosis is confirmed, and the treatment strategy is decided by the doctor.

Educate yourself on the proper latching techniques, and get in touch with a lactation consultant. The lactation consultant will understand the specific problem and suggest the most effective technique suited for each baby.

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Medically Reviewed on 10/15/2021
References
Potock M. Just Flip the Lip! The Upper Lip-tie and Feeding Challenges. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. https://leader.pubs.asha.org/do/10.1044/just-flip-the-lip-the-upper-lip-tie-and-feeding-challenges/full/