Updated: Mar 23
Why you should stop posting photos of your kid's mouth to Facebook groups asking "Is this a tie?" and what questions you should be asking instead!
Parents, I get it! I do, because I have been there and I have wondered the same things: Why does this hurt? Is this normal? How do I know whether there's a problem? Are these ties? But, there are several issues with asking the internet these questions. Let's unpack it.
I see it all the time. A parent posts on the Facebook support group page, "Does this look like a tie?" accompanied by a photo such as mine below:
First of all, most of the folks in the Facebook support groups are parents, just like you and me. They are not qualified to visually ascertain whether the tissues pictured are restricted or not. As experienced parents, sometimes of multiple tied kids, we may know what we are looking at. And, of course there are sometimes very conspicuous types of ties. But regardless of how sure we are that there may be a restrictive frenum in the photo, it isn’t our job as fellow parents to confirm (or deny) a tie based on a photo.
But let's say someone in the group happens to be a provider, someone trained to determine whether something is or isn't a tie? Even still, and possibly more so, they would want to reserve their professional opinion for an individual assessment. A provider weighing in on whether or not a person has oral ties on the basis of a photo could have potential detrimental effects, unless said provider is going to follow that up with a personalized assessment of the subject. Providing medical advice based solely on a photo, a moment in time, versus a thorough, functional evaluation of oral structure, function, as well as an assessment of the entire situation, including medical history and conditions, social situation, and more, could be a detriment to the provider and the family.
So, if the question, "Is this a tie?" is not the best question to be asking the internet, what are better questions to ask?
Here are four questions to ask instead of "Is this a tongue tie?"
Q: Who can I see for a functional oral evaluation?
A: I cover this in my blog post "Who is on Team Tongue Tie?". A trained ENT, Dentist or pediatrician can diagnose a tie. A trained IBCLC, OT, SLP, or PT can perform an oral evaluation to determine how the structures are functioning and either begin treatment or make referrals from there.
Q: What are some ways to manage the symptoms associated with oral ties?
A: I cover this in my blog post "PT for Tense Babies". A physical therapist, occupational therapist, pediatric chiropractor, or craniosacral therapist may be able to work on the structures that are often involved or affected both within the face and mouth but also the entire body in kiddos that have ties. If your baby is having feeding issues, a feeding therapist or IBCLC (even if exclusively bottle feeding) can help you sort out the problems.
Q: What happens if I feel unsure about what to do if my child IS diagnosed with a tie?
A: Many times parents feel unsure about going through with a procedure but are also afraid of what will happen if they "wait and see". In this case, I would still meet with a release provider for a consult only (indicate this when scheduling!) and discuss your concerns and questions. They may refer you to an IBCLC, or feeding, myofunctional, physical or occupational, or craniosacral therapist for concerns discussed in the above question. I also discuss a proposed plan of intervention (whether pursuing release or not) in this article: "I suspect my baby has a tongue tie. Now what?"
Q: Where can I connect with others who have worked through this?
A: Now here's where your Facebook support groups come in handy! Helpful questions I see parents asking are, "Tell me your success story!" or even, "Has anyone regretted having their child's ties released?" The second one might contain some scarier, more overwhelming answers, but in both cases (success or regret) bear in mind that each of these experiences are completely individual. Even within a family, a parent might have both a success story and a regretful decision. Even within a single case, a parent might have a story that involves making some wrong turns or missteps along the journey before figuring out what the real issues were or who was best suited to help the family! So, while you might find exactly what you are looking for, be aware of confirming your own biases and opinions, remember that these are unique anecdotes that are the story of that family alone, and in no way dictates the outcome of your intended journey. You may want to consider asking your pediatrician, release provider, therapist, or IBCLC for someone to contact to discuss their experiences. Since we've worked with many families who have walked the roads before you, we may be able to put you in contact with some of our previous clients.
If you are in need of PT for your tense or tied baby, whether you're seeking a release or not, please visit my website, Instagram or Facebook and follow me to learn how physical therapy can help! If you are in the Montgomery County, PA area, and you need PT that meets you where you're at (which is right in your own home!), contact me and Let's Begin Together! No cost to give me a call or text and find out whether PT can help! And if I am not the right person for your needs, you can be sure I've got a friend who can help you!