It is normal for babies and small children to have a frenulum that connects their upper lip to the gums underneath. It’s purpose is to provide a space between tiny baby teeth so there is room when the bigger, permanent teeth break through. When this frenulum is thick, it can cause a gap between the two front teeth. Most pediatric dentists recommend waiting to release a thick upper frenulum until age 9 years or older to see whether or not it will cause a cosmetic problem. It is important to note that a thick lip frenulum has no affect on speech and is completely distinct from tongue tie.
“Lip tie” has recently become a popular diagnosis when breastfeeding challenges are present. And as with the term, “posterior tongue tie”, use of this terminology causes a lot of confusion for the following reasons.
Every baby has a lip frenulum. While they vary in size and shape, the size and thickness of the lip frenulum does not predict difficulty nursing. The lip is part of a bigger picture involving many other parts of the baby’s head and neck anatomy which relate to the baby’s ability to gape wide enough to latch on deeply. Sometimes it is necessary to release the lip frenulum to help the baby gape wider, but the frenulum in and of itself it not the problem – it is the solution. Correcting the gape releases the baby’s head and neck structures and resolves the symptoms.