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Tongue and lip ties are common oral conditions affecting infants, children, and adults. These conditions occur when the frenulum, a small piece of tissue that connects the tongue or lip to the floor of the mouth or the gums, is too tight or restrictive. Understanding what causes tongue and lip ties is essential for parents and healthcare providers to recognize the condition and seek appropriate treatment.

What Are Tongue and Lip Ties?

A tongue tie (ankyloglossia) is characterized by a short, thick, or tight frenulum that restricts the tongue’s range of motion. Similarly, a lip tie occurs when the tissue connecting the upper lip to the gums is too tight, limiting the lip’s movement. Both conditions can cause breastfeeding, speech development, and oral hygiene difficulties. The following are some of the possible causes of tongue or lip ties.

1. Genetic Factors

Genetics play a significant role in the development of tongue and lip ties. The condition often runs in families, suggesting a hereditary component. If one or both parents had tongue or lip ties, there is an increased likelihood that their children may also be affected. Specific genes related to connective tissue formation and structure may influence the occurrence of these conditions.

2. Developmental Variations

During fetal development, the frenulum usually recedes and becomes thinner. However, in some cases, this process does not occur as expected, resulting in a tongue or lip tie. Developmental variations that cause the frenulum to remain thicker or tighter than normal can lead to restricted tongue or lip movement.

3. Environmental Factors

While genetics and developmental variations are primary causes, environmental factors during pregnancy may also contribute to the development of tongue and lip ties. Factors such as maternal health, nutrition, and exposure to certain substances or medications during pregnancy might influence fetal development and the formation of the frenulum.

4. Connective Tissue Disorders

Some children with connective tissue disorders, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, may be more prone to developing tongue and lip ties. These disorders affect the body’s connective tissues, leading to various symptoms, including overly tight or restrictive frenula.

Identifying Tongue and Lip Ties

Early identification of tongue and lip ties is crucial for timely intervention and treatment. Some signs and symptoms to watch for include:

  • Breastfeeding Difficulties: Infants with tongue or lip ties may have trouble latching onto the breast, resulting in poor feeding, inadequate weight gain, and prolonged feeding times.
  • Speech Problems: As children grow, restricted tongue or lip movement can impact speech development, causing issues with pronunciation and clarity.
  • Oral Hygiene Issues: Difficulty with proper tongue movement can make it challenging to clear food debris, leading to an increased risk of cavities and gum disease.
  • Gastrointestinal Problems: Infants with tongue or lip ties may swallow excess air while feeding, leading to colic, reflux, and gas.

Treatment for tongue and lip ties often involves a simple procedure known as a frenotomy or frenuloplasty. During a frenotomy, a healthcare provider uses sterile scissors or a laser to release the tight frenulum, improving mobility. The procedure is quick, and recovery is usually straightforward, with minimal discomfort.

At the South Carolina Tongue Tie Center, our specialists are experienced in diagnosing and treating tongue and lip ties. We use advanced techniques to ensure safe and effective treatment for patients of all ages. Early intervention can prevent long-term complications and improve feeding, speech, and overall quality of life.

Understanding the causes of tongue and lip ties is essential for early identification and treatment. If you suspect that you or your child may have a tongue or lip tie, seeking a professional evaluation at the South Carolina Tongue Tie Center can provide the guidance and treatment needed to address the issue effectively. Early intervention can significantly affect feeding, speech, and oral health, ensuring a healthier and happier future.

Posted on behalf of South Carolina Tongue Tie Center

538 Savannah Hwy
Charleston, SC 29407

Phone: 843-654-0459


Monday - Thursday: 8am - 5pm
Friday: 8am - 2pm

Our Patient Reviews

South Carolina Tongue Tie Center

4.7 / 5.0

Based on 5 reviews

  • Talia H.

    Great experience with my visit to Dr. McPhearson and Carrie, hygienist. Dr. McPhearson is so patient, kind, and a perfectionist. She cares deeply that you have a great dental visit every time.

  • Maham A.

    I saw Dr. Caitlin McPherson and she is absolutely amazing. Not only does she make sure that everything is beautiful and functional, but she also treats every patient and their concerns with the utmost kindness.

  • Frankie W.

    Dr. McPherson is absolutely the best I highly recommend her and her team for all of your dental needs.

  • Phillip R.

    Everyone is so nice and they all seem to have good comradery. Mallory, Taylor, and Dr. Caitlin McPherson definitely know what they're doing!

  • Kyle A.

    The staff is always friendly & Dr McPherson does a great job every time!

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