A frenectomy is an oral surgical procedure where a doctor snips the frenum, a connective tissue membrane that is also called a frenulum, in order to loosen or release the bands of tissue causing restriction of the lip or tongue. The procedure is simple, safe and effective with minimal aftercare. It’s recommended for infants and children with tongue or lip ties, and is most helpful in allowing infants and nursing mothers to feed more comfortably.
Tongue ties occur in 4-11% of newborns.
First, a consultation is necessary to determine if your child requires a frenectomy. You’ll discuss your concerns and experiences with the doctor and your child will receive an oral exam. The dentist will examine their mouth for signs of tongue and lip ties, and determine whether or not a frenectomy is the best option.
To begin the surgery, the area will be numbed using local anesthesia to ensure your child feels absolutely no pain or discomfort throughout the procedure.
There are many tools that can be used to snip the frenulum, such as lasers or scissors. Your doctor will discuss available options during the consultation, but in any case, the frenulum can be snipped in seconds. A laser minimizes bleeding and discomfort, and encourages faster healing.
With a laser frenectomy, there is no need for stitches or sutures. Proper aftercare includes cleaning the treatment site at least twice per day. Your child’s dentist may also recommend tongue or lip stretches to ensure that the frenulum heals properly and does not reattach.
A lingual frenectomy is used to treat tongue ties. Tongue ties, also called “ankyloglossia,” occur when the lingual frenulum is overdeveloped. The lingual frenulum is the band of tissue that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth.
When the lingual frenulum is overdeveloped, your child may not be able to move their tongue properly, leading to issues with breastfeeding, chewing, and proper speech. In a lingual frenectomy, this band is snipped to ensure the tongue can move freely.
A maxillary frenectomy is performed to remove lip ties. The frenulum between the upper gums and upper lip can become overdeveloped, causing issues with proper lip movement, and even causing diastema (a gap between the front teeth). In this procedure, the frenulum will be snipped to restore proper movement of the lips, and restore your child’s oral health.
Ankyloglossia, or tongue tie, is more common in boys than in girls.
Tongue and lip ties are collectively known as “tethered oral tissues” or TOTs. They occur when the bands of tissue that connect the tongue or the lips to the mouth become overdeveloped to the point that proper mouth movement is restricted.
They are uncommon in infants and toddlers, and sometimes do not need treatment. Minor tongue and lip ties may not cause any feeding problems, or contribute to speech impediments.
However, serious tongue and lip ties can make it hard for your child to breastfeed or use a bottle properly, resulting in poor feeding and inadequate nutrition. If you think that your child is having trouble feeding because of tongue or lip ties, you should get help from a pediatric dentist right away.
Feeding problems are the most common signs of tongue and lip ties. Your child’s lips and tongue need to be able to move properly to latch onto the nipple and stimulate it for proper feeding. If they seem to be having trouble making a proper seal, milk dribbles out from their mouth while feeding, or they frequently stop and start feeding, they may be having latching issues due to tongue or lip ties.
You can also look for visual signs of tongue and lip ties. For the lips, you can fold back your child’s upper lip and look at the frenulum. If it is difficult to lift the lip or it seems like your baby is unable to move their upper lip on their own, they may have a lip tie.
Signs of tongue ties include an inability for your child to stick their tongue out past their front teeth, or problems moving the tongue from side to side. Tongue ties can also be identified visually. A common sign of tongue ties is a “heart-shaped” tongue. When your child sticks their tongue out, the restriction caused by the tongue tie may cause it to look “notched” or heart-shaped, instead of appearing as a smooth “U” shape.
Not at all. Your child’s mouth will be completely numb throughout the procedure, and we use special tools at our office to eliminate pain and discomfort. With laser dentistry, your child will experience minimal bleeding, and they will be able to recover from tongue or lip tie treatment quickly and with low levels of post-operative discomfort.
A frenectomy will typically be covered by dental insurance, so you can get your child the care they need without worrying about high out-of-pocket expenses. Even if you do not have insurance, the cost of a frenectomy is quite low. Insurance plans vary, so make sure you consult with your dental insurance company to make sure your child is covered for their treatment.
To care for the surgical site, you will need to clean the treatment area twice a day to prevent infection and keep it healthy. Your child’s dentist may also recommend some stretches for the tongue and/or lips. These stretches will help ensure that when the frenulum heals, it will not reattach and restrict your child’s oral range of motion. Follow the instructions given to you and make sure you regularly perform all stretches recommended to you by your child’s dentist.
Frenectomies are usually identified in infants and young children before they grow older, so the treatment is primarily done on younger children. However, it’s not exclusively provided to infants and young children. Older kids, teenagers, or even adults who have tongue or lip ties may be able to benefit from treatment with a frenectomy if they have serious tongue or lip ties.
Tongue and lip ties are hereditary.