Tongue and Lip Tie may seem to be the new “hot” diagnosis du-jour online, and some pediatricians and other medical professionals are expressing concern that it is being over-diagnosed, causing babies and children to undergo unnecessary surgical procedures. But there is a lot of misunderstanding and lack of education in this area.
Part of the perception problem stems from a large number of parent-run social media groups that have popped up to support families who suspect that their child may have this problem. While these groups are very helpful for many parents, medical professionals are rightly concerned that parents may be getting incorrect information from non-medical providers. In these groups, parents often post pictures asking if their child has a lip or tongue tie, and other members of the group will respond with their opinion as to whether the baby is “tied” or not. This is unfortunately not a medical diagnosis and may or may not be correct.
We also often see that when a parent posts on social media about difficulties they are having with their baby, often someone will post the response “Have you checked for a tie?”
Parents posting online are often struggling with a myriad of difficult issues, ranging from breastfeeding difficulties, painful latch, reflux, colic, sleep problems to problems with milk supply or the baby gaining weight. They are often at the end of their rope and are looking for anything that will help solve their problem. So, when they are told that the picture of their baby’s lip or tongue looks like a tie and they should have it “released”, they may self-refer to a provider to get a surgical release of the lip or tongue without really having an appropriate assessment to determine whether the tongue or lip tie is truly the cause of their baby’s difficulty, or whether there are other issues that may be contributing to the problems.
Added to this is the fact that many medical professionals have little to no training in identifying tongue and lip ties and are not aware of the issues these restrictions may cause, The provider may not perform the physical assessment properly, often simply looking under the tongue by lifting the tongue with tongue depressor. The provider may dismiss the parent’s concerns if the baby is able to stick their tongue out or is gaining weight well. If you are experiencing these things, they are all good indications that the medical provider does not have specialized training in this area.
In our experience, there are a significant number of children who have tongue and lip ties and for which these ties cause problems. It is not an internet fad, but more so a problem of lack of the education and resources needed for parents to get accurate and effective assessments and treatment if necessary.
If your think your child has a tongue tie, please see a qualified medical professional who has specific experience with these issues and has taken the additional training needed to identify and navigate the treatments needed to resolve the issue. Parents should not hesitate to ask their medical provider what experience and specific training they have in this area.
A good place to start is with a medical provider who assesses not just the anatomy, but how the anatomy is impacting function. Providers who can do this need to have taken specific advanced training in this area and include many IBCLCs (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants), SLPs (Speech Language Pathologists) and Myofunctional Therapists. Again, parents should not hesitate to ask the IBCLC, SLP or Myofunctional Therapist what specific training and experience they have related to tongue and lip ties.