Frenectomies are surgical procedures for removing excess tissue connections in the mouth. A frenum is a thin, folded layer of tissue. If a frenum is overdeveloped, it can cause difficulty speaking and swallowing and orthodontic trouble. In pediatric dentistry, excessive frenum tissue can lead to a range of other symptoms.
Overdeveloped frena cause conditions typically referred to as lip ties and tongue ties, which are common in children and adults. During a frenectomy procedure, a dentist removes one or both of the frena. Frenectomies are fast procedures, complete from start to finish in under 15 minutes, and are safe for patients of all ages.
Lip Ties and Tongue Ties
Dental frenectomy procedures correct lip ties and tongue ties by focusing on two different frena in the mouth —the labial frenum, which is responsible for lip ties, and the lingual frenum, which is responsible for tongue ties.
The Labial Frenum
The labial frenum connects gum tissue to the lips. Also called the upper or maxillary labial frenum, this tissue can grow excessively long or wide. Excessive maxillary labial frenum growth leads to the condition commonly known as a lip tie. Frena too wide or long can also lead to gaps between the teeth. This condition will persist as adult teeth come in, causing the same outcome.
Teeth pushed apart by overdeveloped frenum growth create space that traps food and bacteria. Over time, this can contribute to plaque buildup, leading to gingivitis and tooth decay. In some cases, mandible frenectomies are necessary. For patients with dentures, both labial frenectomy procedures may be necessary for the best fit.
The Lingual Frenum
The lingual frenum causes tongue ties. The lingual frenum is the thin tissue connecting the bottom of the tongue to the mouth. These frena develop differently for everyone. The size, width and flexibility of this tissue can all restrict tongue movement. In some cases, lingual frena can extend the entire length of the tongue. When the lingual tissue prohibits ordinary tongue movement, a lingual frenectomy may be necessary.
Signs Your Child May Need a Frenectomy
People of any age can be affected by lip ties and tongue ties, but they predominantly affect infants and children. You can wait until children start to grow adult teeth before correcting lip ties. Tongue ties, on the other hand, present a greater health risk. During infancy, tongue ties can lead to difficulties in nursing with a number of associated complications, and tongue ties will eventually affect speech development.
Signs in Infants
A dentist can spot tongue ties early. An infant frenectomy is safe within weeks following childbirth. There are a number of signs your child may need a frenectomy. In infants, look for signs including:
- Disproportionate gassiness
- Leaking milk during nursing
- Gagging, choking or vomiting
- Long periods of nursing
- Symptoms of colic
- Poor infant weight gain
Infants may be exhausted after nursing due to overexertion. Nursing mothers may experience pain, bruises or bleeding after nursing and a decrease in milk production. Left untreated, symptoms will change as children age.
Signs in Toddlers and Children
For toddlers and children, overdeveloped frena can cause:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Trouble speaking
- Orthodontic complications
Some kids may not yet display any outward symptoms. If you think your child may need a frenectomy, schedule an appointment with a dentist and put your questions to rest.
The Frenectomy Procedure
Frenectomies are fast, simple procedures performed right at the dental office. Procedures are over in minutes and have short recovery periods. Results are almost instant with improvements to speech for children and adults, and nursing improvement for infants. Most frenectomies follow the same procedure:
- Preparation: The area is thoroughly treated to remove any sensation during the procedure.
- Procedure: A small, targeted incision is made to the frenum, reducing the connective tissue.
- Recovery: Frenectomies typically involve stitches and minor aftercare instructions.
Most frenectomy procedures heal within seven days. Following an infant frenectomy, place your child on their back to keep pressure from the jaw. After a procedure, it’s typical to experience minor symptoms while the incision site heals. These include bleeding at the incision site, swelling and discomfort.
Most patients can resume their normal lifestyles within days. Follow-up appointments occur about a week after surgery. Talk to your dentist if you or your child experience any difficulties healing from a frenectomy.
Call Alpen Dental Today
Frenectomy procedures help people live happier and healthier lives. Healthy smiles play a big role in building self-confidence. Frenectomies allow proper swallowing and tongue movement and can promote better oral health.
Tongue ties and lip ties are treatable. Frenectomies at Alpen Dental are simple procedures with fast results. For more information about the frenectomy procedure or to schedule an appointment in Blackfalds or Rimbey, send us a message today.