A frenum is a piece of tissue that connects different parts of the mouth together. There are several frena present, including the lingual frenum (the piece of tissue under the tongue that connects your tongue to your mouth), the labial frenum (which attaches both your bottom and top lips to your mouth), and the buccal frena (which connect your gums to your cheeks).
Frena are an essential part of our smiles and keep our mouths healthy and functional. However, there are certain cases where the frena are hindering to the mouth’s daily activities, such as speaking and eating. What is a frenectomy, and why is it necessary?
What Is a Frenectomy?
A frenectomy is the removal or shortening of a frenum in the mouth. For some people, their frena may be elongated and cause problems, so a frenectomy will better shape the frenum and alleviate any discomfort or challenges.
A frenectomy could include the removal of one frenum or removal of several frena. Whichever frena are causing problems are the ones that will need attention to help your mouth be comfortable and functional again. Any frena have the potential to cause problems!
When Is a Frenectomy Necessary?
There are a few scenarios in which a frenum or frena would need to be removed. For example, if the lingual frenum (underneath the tongue) is too long, it can cause infants discomfort or difficulty when eating. This is what constitutes the phrase “tongue-tied”—having an elongated lingual frenum that essentially binds your tongue to the bottom of your mouth.
For labial frenum (which connect your lips to your mouth), there may be problems when getting orthodontic treatment as your child gets older. If the labial frena extend too far, they can actually cause a gap between the front teeth. In some cases, the gap goes away once the permanent teeth come in; however, if it doesn’t, a frenectomy may be necessary to fully address spacing issues when your child is receiving orthodontic treatment.
Who Performs the Procedure?
An oral surgeon will usually perform the frenectomy. The procedure is simple—usually lasting only about 15 minutes—and recovery time is relatively short, approximately two weeks. Unless the frena are causing a problem such as hindering your infant from feeding or causing speech problems as your child gets older, typically noninvasive treatments are considered first.
However, a frenectomy may be necessary under certain circumstances. Any dentist, especially a good pediatric dentist, can evaluate your child for problems with any of their frena to determine if they could be affecting your child’s ability to eat, speak, or will create problems with teeth spacing later in life.
If you notice your child is having issues, you may be able to gently check their frena for elongation. However, scheduling an appointment with your child-friendly dentist is important to have a professional evaluation. For some children, frena don’t need to be noticeably elongated to cause problems. A frenectomy is a simple procedure that can help your child overcome these challenges and have a pain-free, functional smile for life!