lip tie vs normal frenulum featured image

Lip Tie vs Normal Frenulum – What’s the Difference?

Do you know the difference between a lip tie vs normal frenulum? A lip tie can impede your baby’s ability to breastfeed, which can lead to them being underweight and underfed. Luckily, there are several ways to overcome this challenge, from changing feeding strategies to minor surgery.

In this article, you’ll learn what a labial frenulum and a lip tie are, and what it means for your child.

What Is a Frenulum?

The frenulum is the piece of tissue behind your upper lip that connects it to your gums and palate. Although often a neglected part of the mouth, some people notice this area when they get ulcers. What’s more is that some people even have piercings in this area.

We all have a labial frenulum, but we don’t often inspect this area of our mouth, making it difficult to identify any issues that may arise, such as a lip tie.

Now that you know what a labial frenulum is, let’s look at what a lip tie involves.

What Is a Lip Tie?

Sometimes, the membranes in your frenulum are either too stiff or too thick and prevent your upper lip from moving around freely. When this happens, it’s referred to as a lip tie. The restriction in movement in your upper lip is the key characteristic of lip ties.

A tongue tie is a similar phenomenon that is more common in infants than lip ties. This condition limits tongue mobility. A tongue tie is when a short, thick band of tissue below the tongue causes it to stick to the bottom of the mouth, restricting tongue movement. Although it isn’t known what causes these conditions, some studies suggest that tongue and lip ties are hereditary.

A tongue tie or lip tie is common in babies, although lip ties are much less common. A lip tie, in particular, can make for a frustrating breastfeeding experience for both the baby and the mother.

Luckily, lip ties are not the worst diagnosis for your baby, and there are things that you can do to help your baby overcome this condition.

Lip Tie vs. Normal Frenulum: How to Spot the Difference

Lip tie is a generally mild condition that, while a nuisance, is not dangerous as long as babies are still feeding a normal amount and gaining weight.

There are several signs that your baby may have a lip tie:

  • They choke on milk
  • They make clicking sounds
  • They aren’t gaining weight

One of the main symptoms of a lip tie in babies is difficulty breastfeeding. Lip ties are less likely to affect breastfeeding than tongue restriction, but they may still make latching onto the breast difficult for babies. If this is the case, the breastfeeding mother will also experience discomfort and symptoms such as:

  • Pain while breastfeeding
  • Distorted nipples
  • Gorged breasts or milk ducts
  • Milk supply issue

tongue tie and lip tie illustration

Lip Tie vs. Normal Frenulum: What Can You Do?

Any baby that has a problem latching on to the nipple should be brought to the doctor for a feeding evaluation. The doctor can diagnose the baby with an upper lip tie or find another reason for the feeding problems. However, beware that many doctors cannot recognize or diagnose lip ties. A pediatric dentist experienced with treating lip ties may be your best bet at diagnosing your baby.

That said, you can still feed a child with a lip tie. You can practice proper latching techniques to find the one that works best for your baby. Another strategy is to soften your nipple with the baby’s saliva before trying to feed them to make it easier for them to latch on.

If breastfeeding doesn’t work, don’t hesitate to try switching to a bottle. Some babies have an easier time latching onto a bottle, from which you can feed them either breast milk that you’ve pumped or formula.

If all else fails, you’ll have to consult a lactation specialist to help develop strategies to enable your baby to latch onto your breast for feedings. However, lip tie surgery may be the easiest way to eliminate the effects of a lip tie and improve your baby’s health.

Lip Tie Surgery

If your baby’s lip tie isn’t significantly impacting breastfeeding, or if you can get over the breastfeeding challenge, then there’s no need to remove it or get a lip tie revision. Speech therapy techniques can help. For example, gently slide your finger underneath your baby’s lip and loosen the gap to progressively improve mobility.

However, if your baby’s lip tie is getting in the way of them feeding enough to gain weight, then you may want to consider a lip tie revision procedure that needs to be performed by a qualified pediatric dentist. This is called a frenectomy, and it cuts the membrane connecting the upper gum to the lip using either a laser or surgical scissors. It causes very little pain to your baby, if any, and is extremely safe.

The best way to help your baby recover from a frenectomy is to breastfeed them. This provides the comfort and pain relief that they need. Beyond that, icing the area or gently rubbing it also helps accelerate healing.

smiling mother feeding milk to his baby with feeder

How You Make Me Smile Can Help

The good news is that lip ties aren’t dangerous for babies, but they do take a lot of strategy to overcome if they get in the way of your baby’s feedings. It’s worth trying different techniques to see if your baby can learn to live with their lip tie. In many cases, surgery is the best solution.

We perform laser lip tie and tongue tie surgery to increase your baby’s ability to breastfeed and prevent any future dental problems later on. Book a free consultation today to see how we can help your baby experience comfort again.