There is plenty of confusion out there about the difference between a lip tie and a tongue tie. So, let’s clear it up!
What Is A Lip Tie?
We all are born with a frenulum connecting our upper lip to the upper gum. However, some infants are born with a lip frenulum that is very thick, short and tight. Some may have a frenulum that is so tight that it wraps around the upper gum, creating a visible notch in the upper jaw.
A true lip tie occurs when the upper lip is tethered too tightly to the upper gum and is contributing to the lip’s freedom of movement and in turn, linking to issues with breastfeeding.
Lip ties may influence spacing between permanent teeth and ease of oral cleanability of these teeth later in life (pictured here).
How Do Lip Ties Affect Breastfeeding?
Upper lip ties (ULTs) can partially relate to breastfeeding issues. However, it is important to note that tongue ties are primarily responsible for breastfeeding issues. Why? Because key components of feeding like latching are most often disrupted by tongue mobility problems. The tongue is an obviously critical aspect of feeding as its function is responsible for the swallowing mechanism.
However, ULTs can cause difficulties for a baby to flange their upper lip, meaning: opening their mouth wide enough. Breastfeeding is about obtaining a uniform seal of the mouth over the nipple and consistent and adequate suction. Not being able to open the mouth wide enough is certainly a hindrance as this may be accompanied by a shallow latch, where not enough surface area is being covered by the baby’s mouth. This can cause nipple pain for the mother in addition to inadequate feeding for the baby.
Lip Tie versus Tongue Tie
In my experience, when a baby has trouble latching due to tethered tissues, the vast majority of the time it is due to a tongue tie and not a lip tie. The tongue is responsible for creating negative pressure (suction) during breastfeeding. The lips take a more passive role and are less likely to be a culprit in causing breastfeeding problems.
I don’t discount the possibility that a lip tie could be also hindering proper feeding, however. A consultation with me includes carefully evaluating if an ULT is contributing in any way to improper seal.
Releasing an ULT is just as straightforward as a releasing a tongue tie. Both procedures are called “frenectomies,” however a lip tie removal is called a “labial frenectomy” instead of a “lingual frenectomy.” I use a sterile, precise, and safe laser instrument for both procedures. Read my overview on frenectomies to learn more and schedule a consultation today.