Reviewed by Dr. Benjamin Foley and Dr. Thao Le

Tongue-tie and lip-tie are conditions often thought of as affecting infants, but did you know they can persist into adulthood too? For some adults, these conditions result in various difficulties in their day-to-day lives.

In this blog, we will discuss how to identify a tongue-tie or lip-tie, as well as the symptoms and treatment options.

Table of Contents

What is a Tongue-Tie?

Tongue-tie or ankyloglossia is a condition where a tight and inflexible band of tissue called the lingual frenulum connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth, limiting tongue mobility. While everyone has a frenulum, those with tongue-tie have a frenulum that is thicker, shorter, or tighter than normal.

Symptoms of tongue tie in adults include, but are not limited to:

  • Difficulty sticking the tongue out past the lower lip
  • Heart-shaped tongue
  • Difficulty moving the tongue side to side, up and down or in a circular motion
  • Difficulty making certain sounds like “r” and “l”
  • Speech difficulties
  • Pain in the jaw, neck, and shoulders
  • Headaches
  • Clenching and grinding
  • TMJ
  • Gingival recession
  • Sleep apnea

What is a Lip-Tie?

Similar to tongue-tie, a lip-tie results from an unusually tight or thick labial frenulum. This is the thin piece of tissue that connects the upper lip to the upper gum. A lip-tie can limit the lip’s mobility and prevent proper sealing around the gums.

Symptoms of a lip-tie include, but are not limited to:

  • Difficulty with speech
  • Space between the teeth (diastema)
  • Narrow dental arches
  • Open mouth breathing and snoring
  • Gum tissue recession

Treatment for Tongue and Lip Ties

A frenectomy is the most common treatment for people with tongue and lip ties. A traditional frenectomy is a simple procedure that involves using surgical scissors or a scalpel to cut and remove the frenulum. After the removal, dissolvable sutures are used to close the wound, and it is allowed to heal.

For more information about the procedure, read the frenectomy service page here.

Key Takeaway

Tongue-tie or ankyloglossia is a condition where a tight and inflexible band of tissue called the lingual frenulum connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth, limiting tongue mobility. A lip-tie results from an unusually tight or thick labial (lip) frenulum. A frenectomy is a quick and relatively painless treatment for both tongue and lip tie.

Benefits of a Frenectomy

A frenectomy can significantly improve the quality of life in adults diagnosed with tongue-tie or lip-tie. The benefits include:

  1. Improved speech: A frenectomy can enhance speech clarity, making communication more fluent and effortless.
  2. Reduced pain: Removal of the restrictive frenulum can alleviate associated pain in the jaw, neck, and shoulders.
  3. Enhanced oral health: It can help reduce the risk of gingival recession, improve dental alignment, and contribute to overall oral health.
  4. Improved eating: The procedure can make eating easier and more enjoyable by enabling a broader range of tongue and lip movements.

Healing and Recovery

Your surgeon will give you post-operative instructions; make sure to follow them carefully. Instructions will include:

  • Eat soft foods
  • Avoid overly hot or cold food and drinks
  • Avoid crunchy or sharp foods
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Take pain medications as needed to reduce discomfort
  • Gently brush teeth and rinse with warm saltwater
  • Avoid mouthwashes with alcohol

Oral Surgeons in Boulder, CO

Tongue-tie and lip-tie in adults can significantly impact daily activities, making tasks like speaking, eating, and even breathing more challenging. Recognizing the symptoms is the first step towards addressing the problem.

If you think you have a tongue or lip-tie, we can help. Our surgeons, Dr. Benjamin Foley, Dr. Thao Le and Dr. Daniel Foley, are experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions.

To book an appointment, call (303) 444-2255 or complete the online booking form. We look forward to being your partner in oral health.

FAQs About Tongue and Lip-Ties in Adults

Can You Get Braces With a Tongue-Tie or Lip-Tie?

It is recommended that you treat the tongue or lip-tie before orthodontic treatment. A lip tie can cause diastema, which is the space between your teeth. Without addressing the lip tie, braces may not be effective at closing the gap.

Is Tongue-Tie Surgery Painful for Adults?

No. The procedure is usually done using local anesthesia, so patients don’t feel any pain during the operation. After the surgery, you may experience some soreness or discomfort but this should subside in a few days.

How Long Does It Take for Tongue-Tie and Lip-Tie Surgery To Heal?

The healing process depends on your individual circumstances, however, it usually takes around 2-4 weeks for the wound to heal. You may experience some tenderness and swelling, but these should subside within a few days.

Does Tongue-Tie or Lip-Tie Increase the Risk of Other Oral Health Problems?

Yes, tongue and lip ties can increase the risk of gingival recession, tooth decay, gum disease, TMJ, and other oral health problems. It is important to seek treatment as early as possible to minimize these risks.

Skip to content