What are tongue and lip ties?

What are tongue and lip ties?  

Many of us have a band of tissue under our tongue known as a lingual frenulum. All babies are born with some of this tissue but in about 3-15% of newborns, it can restrict their tongues preventing them from moving freely. This in turn can affect their ability to breastfeed which can lead to nipple pain and damage to the tissues for the mother, decreased milk supply, and decreased milk intake for the baby.


Why does a tie affect breastfeeding?

During breastfeeding, the mobility of the tongue is very important to be able to transfer milk. The tie may restrict the baby's ability to latch deeply onto the breast. This not only reduces milk transfer but will also cause compression of the mothers nipple, causing pain. Babies with ties will often have a high palate which can make it difficult to create adequate suction that is needed to breastfeed without discomfort.

Some babies with a tie may not be able to latch on long enough to transfer enough milk while others babies may stay latched, but transfer only a fraction of what they should be eating for adequate growth and weight gain.


Signs and Symptoms of Tongue and Lip Ties


For infants:

  • Clicking during feeding
  • Popping on and off the breast
  • Falling asleep quickly while nursing
  • Lip blisters or lip curling inward
  • Leaking on the sides of the mouth
  • Poor weight gain
  • Gas pain
  • Noisy breathing/snoring when sleeping
  • Mouth open at rest
  • Reflux or colic symptoms
  • Gumming or chewing of the nipple
  • Unable to hold pacifier in mouth
  • Gagging/choking while eating  

For mothers:

  • Nipple pain and damage
  • Lipstick shaped, creased, bleeding nipples
  • Low milk supply
  • Poor breast drainage
  • Flattened nipples after breastfeeding


Treatment for tongue and lip ties


Treatment for tongue and lip ties (known asfrenectomies) can be done to remove the tie under the tongue or upper lip. Dr.Choi will use a Light Scalpel CO2 laser to release the restriction which allows for a safe and quick procedure. Some of the many benefits of using the Light Scalpel laser include


  • Minimized bleeding
  • Less swelling and discomfort
  • Faster healing
  • Reduced risk of infection
  • Increased precision and complete removal of a tie


Our Team Approach


Dr. Choi understands that post-revision care and follow up is vital to the success of the procedure. While some babies show improvement immediately after the procedure, other babies may need help by additional professionals.


Part of your team can include an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) who can help improve latch, provide exercise to increase strength of the oral cavity, and support you as you and baby go through the healing process. Other professionals include a chiropractor and or cranial sacral therapist who can help release tight muscles that have helped to compensate. An occupational therapist also plays an important role in helping babies to relearn how to use their tongues.


After having 3 tongue-tied babies herself, Dr. Choi understands the frustration that many mothers are having. Dr. Choi is passionate about giving mothers the chance to not only feed their infant successfully but also promote growing healthy airways.

Tiny Teeth, Big Special

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