When it comes to tethered oral tissues, the vast majority of the emphasis has been on tongue ties. The tongue plays a role in widening, lowering, and moving the palate forward with proper resting tongue posture. Apart from impacting how teeth can come in, the role that upper lip ties play during craniofacial development is less understood.
Lip ties are continuous with a more superficial layer of fascia than the tongue. Based on palpating a patient during an upper lip tie release, I suspect that the lip and tongue fascial layers connect at the palate. Furthermore, I believe upper lip ties also play a role in preventing a high narrow palate from lowering.
Observations From A Lip Tie Release
I have been able to palpate patients during tongue tie releases, but never with a lip tie release. Recently I was able to palpate a patient who got an upper lip tie release first. It was interesting to feel how the face widened as her tissues were freed during the lip tie release. Specifically, it was the maxillary and zygomatic bones that palpably widened. In the front, the maxillary bones also rounded out from a more pointed position.
Insights From The Lip Tie Release
It became clear that an upper lip tie does more than affect the spacing of the upper teeth. It is a three-dimensional fascial binding affecting the palate and nasal cavity. Imagine the fascial tissue of the upper lip tie extending into the intermaxillary suture. This is the space where the maxillary bones come together along the midline.
Upper Lip Tie Exercise: Try Doing This
Gently pinch your upper lip as close to where your lip attaches to your gums. Pull your upper lip straight out and hold it. You may notice after a few seconds you will start to feel pressure in the palate and nasal cavity along the midline.
Specifically, you will feel tension in your palate and within the intermaxillary suture. If you pull downward at an angle, you may feel a pull into your nasal cavity.
This exercise will help you understand how a lip tie can have effects into the suture and the nasal cavity. Now let’s talk about what those effects are.
How A Lip Tie Can Prevent The Palate From Lowering
The forward tension that the upper lip tie creates in the intermaxillary suture, tightens the suture. The bones are more tightly compressed into each other than under normal circumstances. The more tightly compressed they are, the more difficult getting them to move becomes.
Because of that, the bones are not as free to move downward. A tongue that has been freed from a tether will still not be as effective at drawing the palate downward even once it can make contact if the upper lip tie is present.
When the upper lip tie is released, the tension is relieved within the suture and the palate is widened and more freely able to be drawn downward. The other aspect of this we have not talked about is the increased fascial tension in the nasal cavity from the upper lip tie. I am less clear about the details of how the upper lip tie affects the nasal cavity and the septum. If the palate cannot widen and move downward, then the nasal cavity will stay smaller.
I believe from my experiences with the above and many other patients that lip and perhaps even buccal ties play a significant role in impacting craniofacial development. There is still a lot more to learn in this field, but we see them regularly in our office. I believe that upper lip ties increase tension in the intermaxillary suture resulting in a compression that does not allow them to be drawn downward. Because of this, lip ties should be addressed along with tongue ties for optimal outcomes.