Did you know? A simple in-office procedure can help solve health and cosmetic problems, from sleep disordered breathing to impaired speech to gapped teeth. Learn about the benefits of a frenectomy.
The word frenectomy sounds intimidating, doesn’t it? Actually, a frenectomy is a commonly performed procedure that addresses a number of issues you or your child may have.
You may not know what a frenulum is, but everyone has a number of them in their bodies. A frenulum is a piece of tissue connecting two neighboring other bodies of tissue that, in effect, holds everything in place. The frenula we’re concerned with here are right inside your mouth.
Two of them connect the inside upper and lower lip area to the upper and lower jaw, respectively (labial). The third frenulum connects the tongue to the bottom of your mouth (lingual).
A Frenulum Breakdown!
In most cases, the frenula perform their job extremely well, but in other cases, they do it too well. Eating, speaking, breastfeeding and other oral functions are made difficult as a result.
Enter the dental frenectomy, a simple outpatient procedure that reduces or eliminates the frenulum, allowing for freer movement and a return to proper function.
Labial Frenectomy (upper lip): When the frenulum is too tight, a number of things can happen…
- In newborns, it can prevent proper latching to the breast, and thus inhibit breastfeeding. Babies may cry more, and not receive as much nourishment. Mothers can become discouraged, resorting to bottle feeding, which may not be as beneficial as breastfeeding.
- In growing children, a restrictive frenulum can cultivate an “open moth posture” which leads to breathing through the mouth, instead of the nose. Mouth breathing can lead to sleep apnea and other serious issues.
- Children might also experience diastema (a gap between the two front teeth). If diastema is already present in a child, orthodontics will normally be used to close the gap, and then, a frenectomy will be performed.
- In older adults, a tight frenulum can pull back on gum tissue, causing dentures to slip off.
- It can also cause gum recession.
A labial frenectomy, can prevent these issues from occurring.
Lingual Frenectomy: Ankyloglossia (tongue-tie) is characterized by a short and/or thick lingual frenulum, the membrane connecting the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. This can cause difficulty biting, speaking, sleeping, breathing or taking care of oral hygiene. In children, it can inhibit correct growth of the jaw, and also lead to lisping.
Labial Frenectomy (lower lip): Last but not least, the frenulum connecting the outer lower jaw to the gums can also be too tight, leading to issues similar to those of the upper lip.
Frenectomy Procedures: No Flap
Traditionally, the frenectomy procedure is done with a scalpel or scissors to remove or snip the frenulum. The resultant wound would be sutured and left to heal. Today, a majority of practitioners use a pulse laser, instead of a cutting instrument, to gently zap the tissue. Modern lasers can minimize bleeding, damage to surrounding tissue and pain after surgery.
Patients need not worry too much about after-effects. Especially with laser treatment, the risks and discomfort are relatively low. Minor pain may last two or three days, and complete healing will typically take just two weeks. It may be necessary to repeat the procedure if tissue grows back or the desired result does not occur, but this is not likely. In addition, speech therapy may be required for some individuals.
In most cases, however, the freeing of the tongue or lip areas can generate immediate benefits.
After the cut…
Swab any bleeding that may occur and keep the area clean. Vitamin E oil may be used to promote healing.
In general, new parents should take care to observe their newborns for evidence of a frenulum-related issue. Parents of older children should also consider this condition as a cause of other behaviors.
Just remember, a frenectomy can make a lot of problems go away in just a few minutes. See your dentist!