Have you ever looked inside your mouth? You can probably identify your teeth, tongue, and gums, but there are other parts that form necessary connections in your mouth, like the tissue that connects your tongue to your mouth. Some people have stronger tissues that cause problems as they grow and develop. In those cases, a frenectomy could be the answer.
What is a Frenectomy?
Frenectomy describes any procedure that modifies binding tissues on the body, but it usually refers to oral procedures to correct lip ties or tongue ties in infants. The procedure involves cutting or modifying the frenum, soft tissue that connects parts of your mouth. Most oral frenectomies involve the lingual frenum or the labial frenum.
Usually, doctors identify the need for a frenectomy early in life. It commonly creates problems for breastfeeding, triggering the pediatrician to identify the problem. However, as you grow, issues with the frenum could develop and require intervention during adult years.
Frenectomy Before & After
What is a Lingual Frenectomy?
The tissue connecting your tongue to your mouth is the lingual frenum. If you lift the tip of your tongue to touch the roof of your mouth, you can see and feel that lingual frenum. While the length can vary, some people are born with extremely short lingual frenums, known as tongue ties, that inhibit their ability to eat, drink, and speak.
A lingual frenectomy as a baby improves range of motion to allow proper eating, drinking, and speech development as the child grows.
What is a Maxillary Frenectomy?
A maxillary or labial frenectomy addresses problems with the soft tissue connecting your top lip to your upper gum. If you lift your upper lip, you can see the labial frenum. However, people with short labial frenums may not be able to lift their upper lip, known as lip ties, and it may create a gap between their upper teeth.
Maxillary frenectomies make it easier to clean and care for the front teeth to prevent oral complications, like gum disease. Gaining more movement of the upper lip also helps with speech and facial expressions, especially smiling.
Frenectomy Procedure & Process
Most oral frenectomies are simple procedures that can be handled by your doctor or dentist, but sometimes it’s performed by an oral surgeon or ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist. Regardless of who performs the frenectomy, the process is essentially the same and takes about fifteen minutes.
- With the patient lying face-up, the doctor or dentist applies a numbing agent to the area.
- Using a scalpel, surgical scissors, or a laser, the doctor or dentist cuts the tissue.
- Depending on the severity, stitches may be necessary.
Using a laser to cut the tissue generally reduces the risk of complications and limits blood loss. Another option is using a cauterizing tool to cut the tissue.
How Long is the Frenectomy Recovery Process?
Given that it’s a straightforward procedure, frenectomy recovery is not usually difficult. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics to avoid infections or related complications. In two to three days you should be able to return to normal activity and eating habits.
Part of the frenectomy recovery for a baby requires parents to keep the area clean. It may be a little tender initially.
Frenectomy recovery for adults usually involves limiting the foods you eat for a few days to avoid getting food trapped in the healing area. There will be some discomfort that should be manageable with over-the-counter medication.
Do You Need a Frenectomy After Braces?
Some people require a frenectomy as part of their orthodontic treatment. It’s a way to reposition the tongue to accommodate the growing and shifting jaw. For others, frenectomy eliminates a gap between their front teeth. Your orthodontist may suggest a frenectomy after braces to ensure the teeth and jaw maintain proper alignment.
Who Can Diagnose and Perform a Frenectomy?
While some people report cutting their tongue frenulum at home, it’s not advisable given the risk of infection and other complications. Doctors, dentists, oral surgeons, and ENTs were trained to know how to cut safely and know how far to cut to correct the problem.
Your doctor, pediatrician, or dentist are the best people to identify tongue ties or lip ties. While it is a common condition in infants, some children grow out of it without requiring a frenectomy, so it’s important to consult a trained professional instead of handling it on your own.
Regular follow-ups with a dental professional are important to your oral health. If you or your child are due for a dental check-up, the team at Jefferson Dental & Orthodontics can help. Book an appointment at the office nearest you!