You’ve had some trouble nursing your new little one, and you come to find out that they have a tongue tie. One day at playgroup, you share your struggles with your friends, and a few of them have also dealt with this issue. Have lip and tongue ties become more common in recent years? To answer this question, you must first learn exactly what this problem is, why it seems to be more prevalent now, and how lip and tongue ties are treated.
What Is a Lip or Tongue Tie?
Underneath the lips and the tongue, there is a small piece of tissue called a frenulum. Before birth, for most babies, this tissue disappears or reduces in size, allowing the lips and tongue to move and function properly. However, in some babies, it remains thick and restrictive.
A lip or tongue tie occurs when the frenulum doesn’t allow the baby to form suction around the nipple while breastfeeding. As a result, in an effort to get milk, they may resort to biting down on the nipple, which is ineffective for the baby and often painful for the nursing mother.
History of Lip and Tongue Ties
The concept of lip and tongue ties isn’t new. For centuries, this problem has been fixed by releasing the tissue (i.e., cutting the frenulum), allowing for better oral function. In the middle of the 20th century, however, formula became the preferred method of feeding infants and was believed to be more beneficial. Lip and tongue ties are often less noticeable when bottle feeding; consequently, the number of reported lip and tongue ties dropped significantly during this time.
Nowadays, breastfeeding has regained much more support from doctors and the general public, and with it, cases of lip and tongue ties have climbed back up.
Treatment for Lip and Tongue Ties
As far back as 1679 and possibly even earlier, physicians have addressed tongue and lip ties by severing the frenulum in a procedure called a frenectomy. Usually this procedure involves a scalpel or surgical scissors; however, technology and dental specialists offer a gentler, more efficient treatment.
A soft tissue laser still cuts the frenulum, but it also cauterizes the tissue, which speeds up the healing process. It is also much more precise, reducing the amount of discomfort and bleeding for the baby. Immediately after the laser frenectomy, mother and baby should notice improvement in nursing, enabling both to have a better breastfeeding experience and growth.
Regardless of whether lip and tongue ties are more common, it can be helpful to know that there are others who have dealt with this situation before. You’re not alone, and advancements can make the process easier for both you and your little one.
About the Author
Dr. Paige Prather has many years of professional and personal experience with lip and tongue ties. Her own son had a tongue tie, which interfered with their ability to breastfeed, and she has dedicated her career to helping others overcome this problem. She is currently a member of the International Affiliation of Tongue-Tie Providers (IATP) and has undergone training with the Academy of Laser Dentistry and the World Clinical Laser Institute. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Prather, you can contact her office online or by calling 615-771-2151.