What is a Lip Tie?

Is your baby having trouble with breastfeeding? Has breastfeeding become uncomfortable for you? Your baby may have a lip tie. 

The good news is that a lip tie is not a disease or symptom of a more serious problem. The bad news is that a lip tie can make it hard for your baby to nurse, and this can lead to poor nutrition for your baby and pain during breastfeeding for you.

Lip ties are common, affecting up to 11 percent of babies. Lip ties are less common than tongue ties, which are a similar condition that often occurs with lip ties. Having both a lip and tongue tie can make breastfeeding very difficult. 

What is a Lip Tie?

A piece of soft tissue, known as the frenulum, attaches the lips to the gums. One frenulum attaches the upper lips to the upper gums, and another attaches the lower lips to the lower gums. There is also a third frenum that holds the tongue to the floor of your baby’s mouth. Depending on the attachment point and the mobility it allows for, the frenulum can prevent the lips or tongue from having the appropriate range of motion.

An upper lip tie is a condition in which the frenulum does not allow your baby’s upper lip to move far enough (flange), especially during breastfeeding. This can lead to milk dribbling out when feeding or air being taken in during feeding. 

Why is a lip tie a problem?

In order for your baby to feed properly during breastfeeding, they have to latch onto your breast or bottle correctly to create a tight seal. Specifically, the tip of your nipple should hit the roof of your baby’s mouth to create a vacuum on your breast. Your baby’s tongue is a strong muscle, but it cannot suck and draw out milk if it is not fully underneath the nipple to create a secondary seal. A top lip tie prevents your baby from latching on correctly.

Lip ties are not dangerous for babies, as long as the babies are gaining weight according to established pediatric guidelines. However, breastfeeding is very important for the overall health and well-being of your little one, and a lip tie can make breastfeeding uncomfortable for both you and your baby. 

Some babies have both a lip and a tongue tie, which is a condition in which the frenulum under your baby’s tongue does not allow their tongue to move freely. Having both a lip and a tongue tie can make breastfeeding even more difficult. 

How to Look for a Lip Tie Newborn Babies Sometimes Have

It’s hard to tell if your baby has a lip tie just by looking inside their mouth, but you can examine their mouth and look for the frenulum. 

  • Look at the center of your baby’s upper lip and lift the lip up at the center
  • Look for the band of tissue connecting the upper lip to your baby’s upper gums
  • Run your finger gently across the area where the lip meets the upper gum – the lip frenulum may feel like a bump at the center

If it is difficult to lift your baby’s upper lip, they may have a lip tie. Only a trained healthcare professional, we have a few awesome providers in Virginia Beach, can determine if your baby has a lip tie.  

Signs Your Baby Has a Lip Tie

Your baby may have a lip tie if they show the following signs:

  • Difficulty breastfeeding
  • Difficulty breathing while feeding
  • A noticeable clicking noise while nursing
  • Colic

If your baby has a lip tie, you may notice signs and symptoms in yourself. Your baby may have a lip tie if you show the following signs:

  • Pain during breastfeeding
  • Nipple pain or damage, such as cracks in the skin
  • Mastitis - inflammation of breast tissue that causes breast pain, swelling, warmth, and redness
  • Being asked to triple feed or supplement with formula. 

Treatment for Lip Tie

Treatment for a lip tie is not always necessary, as some babies with lip ties experience symptoms and others do not. What’s more, treatment may not work if breastfeeding problems are the result of something other than a lip tie. Our Virginia Beach dentist can help you determine if a lip tie is the cause of breastfeeding problems and whether lip tie surgery is appropriate for your baby. A team approach is the best way to achieve functional success.

The treatment for lip tie, known as frenectomy or lip tie release, is a quick procedure that generally does not cause complications. After applying a numbing agent (as needed) to the treatment area, dentists usually use a laser to gently remove the tissue causing the problem. The procedure takes about a minute.

The laser cauterizes, or dissolves, the tissue. There is very little bleeding and the treatment area does not require stitches. Recovery is fast too – your baby can nurse immediately after undergoing the procedure. 

Where can I learn about lip tie near me?

For more information about lip ties and to learn if your baby has one, consult with Dr. Zaneta Hamlin at Cusp Dental Boutique. Our Virginia Beach dentist has special expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of lip ties, and we are glad to help you and your baby get the most out of breastfeeding as well as decrease future impacts.  

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