How Lip and Tongue Ties Can Impact Breastfeeding and Oral Development

Lip and tongue ties, medically known as ankyloglossia and upper lip ties, are conditions that can affect infants and, if left untreated, may have lasting effects on their oral development and breastfeeding experience. Understanding these conditions and their impact is crucial for parents and caregivers. In this article, we’ll delve into the ways lip and tongue ties can affect breastfeeding and oral development and how early intervention can make a difference.

What Are Lip and Tongue Ties?

Lip tie occurs when the thin membrane connecting the upper lip to the gum is too tight or extends too far towards the edge of baby’s gum, restricting the lip’s movement. A tongue tie, on the other hand, happens when the band of tissue under the tongue (lingual frenulum) is too short or tight, limiting the tongue’s range of motion.

Breastfeeding Challenges

Lip and tongue ties can significantly impact breastfeeding for both the baby and the mother. A baby with these ties may have difficulty latching onto the breast properly due to restricted tongue movement, leading to shallow latches, nipple pain, and inadequate milk transfer. This can result in poor weight gain and frustration for both the baby and the mother.

Mothers may experience cracked, sore, or bleeding nipples as a result of the baby’s ineffective latch. The discomfort and challenges associated with breastfeeding can lead to feelings of frustration, guilt, and inadequacy for the mother, force early cessation of breast feeding, impacting the overall breastfeeding experience.

Effects on Oral Development

Beyond breastfeeding, lip and tongue ties can also affect a child’s oral development. The tongue plays a crucial role in various oral functions, including speech development, chewing, and swallowing. A restricted tongue movement due to a tongue tie can lead to speech difficulties, particularly with certain sounds like “t,” “d,” “s,” and “z.”

Additionally, tongue ties can contribute to oral health issues such as tooth decay, gum disease, and malocclusion (misalignment of the teeth). The limited mobility of the tongue can hinder proper cleaning of the teeth and gums, increasing the risk of oral health problems later in life.

Most importantly, when the tongue cannot rest against the hard palate, the palate remains narrow and deep leading to narrow nasal passages and sometimes a deviated nasal middle bone (septum) causing mouth breathing instead of healthy nose breathing.

Early Intervention

Recognising the signs of lip and tongue ties early is key to addressing these issues effectively. Parents and carers should look for symptoms such as difficulty latching, poor weight gain, clicking sounds while breastfeeding, and speech delays in older children.

Consulting with a lactation consultant, paediatrician, or dentist experienced in treating lip and tongue ties is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment. Early intervention can prevent long-term complications and improve the breastfeeding experience for both the baby and the mother.

Treatment Options

Treatment for lip and tongue ties typically involves a simple surgical procedure known as a frenectomy, which involves releasing the tight or thickened tissue that is causing the restriction. At Future Dental, we use numbing gel and the Waterlase Laser for these procedures, which offers precise and gentle treatment with minimal discomfort and downtime.

Breastfeeding and oral development may be significantly impacted by lip and tongue ties, but early detection and treatment can greatly improve the situation. By understanding the signs and seeking timely treatment, parents can help their infants overcome these challenges and ensure healthy oral development. If you suspect your child has a lip or tongue tie, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at Future Dental for expert evaluation and care.

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