A frenum or frenulum is a piece of tissue that connects the soft tissues of the mouth. A lingual frenulum connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth and a labial frenulum connects the lips to the gums. If a frenulum is too short, it can cause the patient to be tongue or lip tied or cause difficulty and even pain when the patient speaks and eats. A labial frenulum can even lead to gum recession.
A labial frenectomy is a simple, surgical procedure that frees the lips and improves quality of life. A frenectomy can improve bite function and cosmetic appearances. It can also increase nutrition! When a baby is tongue or lip tied, they may have a lot of trouble nursing and as they get older, eating healthy foods.
What is the procedure for a labial frenectomy?
If you or your child needs a labial frenectomy, we will refer you out to either an oral surgeon or an otolaryngologist to evaluate the patient and perform the procedure. Depending on the doctor’s preferences, one of a few different techniques will be used but no matter what, the patient will always be numb for the procedure via a local anesthetic.
Traditionally, a scalpel is used to cut the frenulum to free the lips from the front gum tissue. Sutures are used to close the incision and can either be removable or dissolvable.
A more modern technique involves the use of a soft tissue laser or electrocautery to cut the tissue. These options are beneficial because the tissue is cauterized closed as the cut is being made and does not require sutures.
Depending on the method your doctor chooses to use, the procedure can take 30 minutes to an hour with anesthetic administration.
Are there any risk factors associated with a labial frenectomy?
Any surgery has risks but there are some factors that may increase your risk of complication including:
- High blood pressure
- Advanced age
Pre-existing medical conditions can also interfere with your ability to tolerate a frenectomy such as uncontrolled diabetes, autoimmune disorders, blood or bleeding disorders, and poorly functioning kidneys, lungs, or liver.
Complications that can arise during or after a labial frenectomy include:
- Infection at the surgery site
- Damage to the soft tissues or nerves
- Excessive bleeding
- Complications from the anesthesia
Care and Recovery After Labial Frenectomy
After a labial frenectomy, it is important to keep the surgery site clean using sterile gauze. You can use ice packs to relieve swelling and over-the-counter pain medications to reduce pain. If antibiotics are prescribed, make sure they are taken as directed and in full to avoid developing an infection. If you like, a saltwater rinse can be used a few times a day to keep the area clean and help speed healing.
If you experience severe pain or bleeding that continues after a day or two, you need to contact your surgeon for a follow-up appointment. Full recovery after a labial frenectomy can take up to a week but healing time is significantly reduced if your doctor uses a soft tissue laser or electrocautery.