What is a Frenectomy?

What is a Frenectomy?

If you or your child has been told they need a frenectomy, you might be a bit worried. What exactly is a frenectomy, and what is involved? A frenectomy is a simple procedure in which the dentist removes a piece of connective tissue in a patient’s mouth to allow their tongue or lip to move better.

Though the term may sound a bit scary, a frenectomy is actually a very common and easy surgery that can make a positive difference in the patient’s life. 

Fixing a Tongue-Tie or Lip-Tie 

A frenum is a small fold of tissue that connects one part of the mouth to another. There are a few different frenums in the mouth, but the two most common ones involved in a frenectomy are the lingual frenum and the labial frenum. The lingual frenum is located under the tongue and the labial frenum is between the front teeth, connecting the lip to the gums.

Sometimes a frenum can cause problems by restricting movement. For example, when the lingual frenum under the tongue is too tight it can limit how much the tongue can move. This is  called a “tongue-tie.” A tongue-tie makes it difficult for the patient to stick out their tongue or move it correctly. 

A tight upper lingual frenum that makes it hard to lift the lip is called a “lip-tie.” This makes it hard to raise the upper lip. 

While being tongue-tied or lip-tied might not seem like a big deal at first, these conditions can create issues that affect a patient’s quality of life. 

Why Do I Need a Frenectomy?

An oral frenectomy is done when a tight or short frenum causes problems. Some common reasons for a frenectomy include:

  • Breastfeeding problems: Babies with a tongue-tie or lip-tie can have trouble breastfeeding. They might not be able to latch on properly or move their tongues to get adequate milk. This can lead to poor nutrition and weight loss. A frenectomy can help them latch better and breastfeed successfully.
  • Speech issues: Older kids and adults with a tongue-tie might have trouble speaking clearly. They might find it hard to say certain sounds. A frenectomy can give their tongue more freedom to move, which can help with speech.
  • Oral hygiene: A tight frenum can make it hard for patients to keep their mouth clean. For example, a lip-tie may not give the patient enough room to brush and floss correctly. This can lead to cavities and other oral health issues.
  • Gum problems: A lip-tie can keep the patient’s mouth from closing correctly, resulting in open-mouth breathing. Over time, constant mouth breathing can lead to gum disease .
  • Orthodontic issues: A tight labial frenum can sometimes cause a space between the front teeth. In such cases, a frenectomy might be followed by braces or Invisalign to move the teeth together .
  • Eating and swallowing: A severe tongue-tie can make it hard to eat and swallow. A frenectomy can make these activities easier and more comfortable.

What Happens During Frenectomy Oral Surgery?

Knowing what to expect can help make the idea of a frenectomy less scary. Here is what usually happens:

  1. Consultation and examination: First, the dentist or oral surgeon will check the patient’s frenum to see if a frenectomy is needed. They will describe the procedure and answer any questions.
  2. Preparation: On the day of the procedure, the oral surgeon will clean the area around the frenum. Then they will use a local anesthetic or numbing gel so the patient does not feel any pain. Sometimes, especially for young children, the oral surgeon might use sedation to help the patient relax.
  3. The frenectomy procedure: The procedure itself is quick and usually takes only a few minutes. There are two main ways to perform a frenectomy:
    • Scalpel: The traditional method uses a small knife (called a scalpel) or a pair of sterile scissors to cut the frenum to release the tongue-tie or lip-tie. This can cause some minor bleeding that usually stops quickly. 
    • Laser: A more modern method uses a laser to cut the frenum. The laser also helps to stop bleeding and usually results in quicker healing.
  4. Post-procedure care: After the procedure, the oral surgeon will give the patient instructions on how to take care of the area. This might include keeping it clean, avoiding certain foods, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers if needed. Patients might also get some exercises to help with healing and movement.

Recovering from a Frenectomy 

Recovery from a frenectomy is usually smooth. Immediately after the oral surgery procedure, there might be some swelling and discomfort. This is usually minor and can be managed with pain relievers.

Healing time can vary, but most patients heal completely within a week or two.

Typically, the dentist will schedule a follow-up appointment to make sure everything is healing properly and to answer any questions.

Don’t Fear the Frenectomy! 

A frenectomy might sound scary at first, but it is a safe, routine procedure with many benefits. Whether for babies having trouble breastfeeding, kids with speech issues, or adults struggling with oral hygiene, a frenectomy can greatly improve quality of life. 

If you think you or a loved one might need a frenectomy, talk to your dentist to learn more and to find out if it’s the right choice for you. Try our online search tool to find a dentist in your area.