Tongue and lip ties are often associated with newborns having trouble breastfeeding. The problems that they can cause as the patient gets older are less discussed. What if your child has a tie but had no trouble breastfeeding? What if they were bottle-fed? Does that mean they won’t experience other issues related to their tethered tissues?
When a tongue tie or lip tie is present, there may be other signs that you should have your child evaluated by a biological dentist like Dr. Evy who specializes in pediatric dentistry. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common issues:
A diastema is a gap between teeth – usually the two upper front teeth (central incisors), but sometimes the lower central incisors. They’re usually first diagnosed when the child is between 12 and 18 months old. A significant lip tie can cause food to stay trapped between the lip and incisors, which, together with other factors such as enamel hypoplasia, raises the risk of cavities.
An upper lip tie significant enough to cause a diastema can often be uncomfortable for the child. The tie is restrictive. It doesn’t allow for the proper movement of the upper lip. This is one issue that can be resolved earlier in life with a laser frenectomy, which releases the tie.
Studies show that within a couple of months of releasing the upper lip tie, teeth can start to move together by themselves. Other times, if the teeth involved are the permanent incisors, the orthodontist asks that the tie be removed in order to complete the orthodontic treatment.
Also known as bruxism, tooth grinding – especially during sleep – can be a sign of a tongue tie. This is because the short frenulum keeps the tongue from assuming its natural rest position against the palate (roof of the mouth). It can even cause the tongue to fall back when the body is relaxed and obstruct the airway. In severe cases, it can lead to sleep breathing disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea.
When tongue position interferes with the airway like this, grinding is one way in which the body attempts to adapt, even though it puts the teeth at risk for excess wear, fractures, and other problems.
Gum recession is something we commonly see in patients with a lip tie, the result of muscles pulling on the gums. This puts too much force on those delicate tissues. They’ll slowly pull away from the teeth, leaving the roots exposed and the teeth more vulnerable to decay.
Here, too, a laser frenectomy early in life can prevent the problem from occurring.
Most often, we see patients with untreated tongue and lip ties needing braces to close diastemas or properly align crowded, crooked teeth caused by a narrow palate – itself, the result of the tongue not being able to sit in its natural resting position molding and shaping the upper jaw as the patient grows and develops.
Some orthodontists will recommend laser frenectomy after treatment is complete, but studies show that there’s no need to wait. Indeed, it can be beneficial to release ties during treatment.
Jaw surgery is the most severe consequence of an untreated tongue or lip tie. A severe tongue tie, for instance, can keep the bones from growing enough. Often, things like genetics and non-nutritive habits like thumb sucking also contribute to the lack of proper growth. The teeth may be crowded and the jaws, misaligned. Sometimes the problems can be treated with orthodontics or orthotropics. In severe cases, jaw surgery might be recommended.
If jaw surgery is advised, it usually takes place after the age of 18, once the jaw has stopped growing. However, there’s no guarantee that the patient will feel relief from the tightness caused by the tongue or lip tie.
Laser Frenectomy as Prevention
Here at Green Apple, Dr. Evy diagnoses babies, children, and even adults with tongue, lip, and buccal ties. (A buccal tie is when the frenulum attaching cheek to gum is too short.) She also treats them, releasing the ties quickly with laser frenectomies, bringing them swift relief and an easier path toward a lifetime of excellent oral health.
The earlier these ties are diagnosed and treated, the better chance the patient has to avoid serious dental issues.