What Is a Frenectomy and When Is it Considered Necessary?
by Dr Richard Barry
Your smile is unique. So too is the structure of your mouth. While you’re already familiar with how your teeth and gums fit, you may be less aware of the connecting tissues that keep everything, such as your tongue and lips, in place.
These connecting tissues, called frenum, can sometimes become an issue, growing and developing in ways that interfere with normal activities. Such issues include noticeable gaps in your front teeth, a speech impediment in children, and a baby’s difficulty in breast or bottle feeding. In these cases, a frenectomy may be a solution.
What Exactly is a Frenectomy?
An oral frenectomy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that modifies the connective tissues inside the mouth. These soft tissues, or frenum, attach different parts of the mouth, including the tongue and lips, to other surfaces within the mouth’s structure and may become too restrictive or overgrown.
To more clearly understand what a frenectomy is and how a patient can benefit, it helps to understand what and where these binding tissues are located and why they would need this surgical procedure.
Oral frenum issues most commonly associated with a frenectomy include:
A lingual frenum is a thin, vertical tissue connecting the underneath surface of your tongue to the bottom of your mouth. In children, this lingual frenum may become overdeveloped, restricting the movement of the tongue. As a result, the baby or child can find it difficult to breastfeed, bottle feed, and swallow.
If left undiagnosed and untreated, speech impediments as the child grows older can develop and are commonly referred to as one being tongue-tied.
A frenectomy will correct these problems and allow for normal eating and also speech development in children. For adults with a tight lingual frenum, the procedure can halt gums pulling away from the bottom front teeth and also alleviate the restricted mobility of the tongue.
The labial frenum is connective tissue that attaches your top lip to the space right above the front teeth. When it is shortened, it may prevent you from lifting the lip in the usual ways (called lip ties) and lead to complications with speech and the ability to smile normally. It can also limit your ability to properly brush the front teeth and gums, raising the risk for tooth decay and other dental issues.
A frenectomy can increase the mobility of the upper lip, allowing for better speech and facial expression, including smiles. It can also improve dental hygiene access to those front teeth and gums.
Another issue experienced here is when the frenum overdevelops and creates a thick band between a patient’s two top front teeth, interfering with normal development and spacing, causing a wide, noticeable gap. In these cases, a frenectomy will remove, reshape, or shorten the excess tissue.
What Does a Frenectomy Procedure Involve?
A Frenectomy procedure is a minor, in-office surgery that only takes approximately 5 to 15 minutes to complete.
The dentist will commonly start by giving young children general anesthesia. Adults, however, will have the choice between a local anesthesia or, if feeling anxious, one of the available sedation options.
Once the patient is under the anesthesia or under sedation, the dentist will use a laser or scalpel to make an incision to relax the muscular tissue, releasing the tightness. Sutures may be necessary depending upon the circumstances and whether a scalpel or laser is used.
The best way to ensure proper healing will be to follow the guidelines your dentist provides after the procedure itself. As for recovery times, healing will usually occur within 1-2 weeks. Patients may need to take antibiotics to avoid any complications or infections and should practice gentle dental hygiene.
When Should you Consider Getting a Frenectomy?
The best time to consider getting a frenectomy varies depending on a patient’s age and the issues the frenum is causing.
Babies experiencing problems with the lingual frenum anchoring the tongue often undergo the procedure to help them breastfeed or feed through a bottle better. This early procedure will also help prevent speech impediments from developing.
With a labial frenum, younger children whose permanent teeth have not yet grown in may benefit from a frenectomy and prevent a wide gap from forming between the upper front teeth.
Those already with permanent front teeth may be advised to undergo aesthetic or orthodontic treatment to close a gap. The dentist can then assess whether the extended frenum was the cause and take measures from there.
Contact Lifetime Dental Health in Columbus to Find Out More
When it comes to you or your child’s oral health, the team at Lifetime Dental Health understands how essential it is to find solutions to issues such as a shortened or overdeveloped frenum. Contact our office in Columbus today to learn more and schedule a consultation with our skilled dental team.