Frenum and the Frenectomy Procedure
What is a frenum?
A frenum, or frenulum, is a band of tissue connecting the lips to the gums or the tongue to the floor of the mouth. We have two types of frenums in our mouth: a lingual frenum under the tongue and a labial frenum between the lips and gums.
When the lingual frenum is too short, it restricts tongue movement and can cause a lot of trouble for babies who are breast-feeding. If a baby is tongue-tied, they may have difficulty latching to the breast and nursing adequately, causing malnutrition. The baby may fail to gain weight and overtime, being tongue-tied can even impair their speech as they grow. A lingual frenectomy is performed by an oral surgeon or otolaryngologist with the goal to free the tongue, allowing for proper swallowing and speech.
If the labial frenum is too short or wide, it can cause spacing between the two front teeth and may even cause gum recession.
What is a frenectomy?
A frenectomy is a simple surgical procedure used to remove the frenum in order to free the tongue or lips. A frenectomy can be provided to patients of any age and can greatly increase the patient’s oral and overall health, as well as their quality of life!
How is a frenectomy performed?
A frenectomy can be performed using a scalpel, soft tissue laser, or an electrocautery machine. When a scalpel is used, sutures are often necessary to close the site and promote healing. Both a laser and an electrocautery machine cauterize the tissue as it is separated and helps lessen bleeding and overall healing time!
Adult patients and young children will be given a local anesthetic before the frenum is cut but infants may not need anesthetic at all because the frenum is very thin and has very few nerves. Babies can nurse immediately following the procedure. For older patients, there is very little pain and swelling at the surgery site. They can usually go back to their regular school or work routines within a couple of days. After a frenectomy, you will likely be given antibiotics to prevent an infection. You will also need to see your doctor for post-operative appointments to make sure that everything is healing properly.
If your baby is having trouble breastfeeding or your toddler is not speaking properly, visit their pediatrician to see if they are tongue-tied and if a frenectomy will provide the relief they need in order to nurse well. It is possible that the frenum may stretch on its own and nursing will become easier over time, but a frenectomy is so quick and simple so it could be the best option instead of hoping things will work out on their own.