The frenum, a crucial component of the oral cavity, can be described as a delicate mucus membrane fold that functions to connect either the lip to the gums or the tongue to the floor of the mouth. This specialized membrane primarily consists of connective tissue fibers and lacks any muscle fibers.
The presence of these connective tissue fibers facilitates proper attachment between different parts of our mouth while ensuring stability and flexibility during various oral movements such as speaking, eating, and swallowing. This unique anatomical feature plays a significant role in maintaining overall oral health by contributing to optimal functionality and structural integrity within the oral cavity.
A frenectomy is a minor surgical procedure that involves removing or adjusting the frenum, the small fold of tissue that connects certain parts of our mouth. This procedure can be performed on both children and adults.
Potential Issues Caused by an Uncorrected Frenum
One of the key issues that can arise due to an uncorrected frenum is gum recession. When the frenum, the small fold of tissue, is located too close to the gum margin, it exerts constant tension on the surrounding area. This continuous tension can lead to the gums being pulled away from their normal position, resulting in gum recession. As a consequence, more of the tooth root becomes exposed, making the teeth susceptible to sensitivity and decay.
Spacing Between Incisors
Another problem associated with an uncorrected frenum occurs when it restricts natural movement between the front teeth, known as incisors. The frenum's positioning near this region creates limitations in closing gaps naturally or even leads to a wider spacing between these teeth than what would be considered ideal for dental health and aesthetics.
Newborn babies may experience challenges while nursing or latching if they have an uncorrected frenum issue. The tongue tie caused by a tight or short lingual frenulum restricts proper extension and mobility of the tongue during breastfeeding. This restriction can make it difficult for infants to latch onto their mother's nipple properly, causing discomfort for both baby and mother during feeding sessions.
Speech Issues With Lip or Tongue Sounds
An uncorrected labial (lip) or lingual (tongue) tie can also affect speech development and pronunciation abilities in children and adults alike.
Reasons for Getting a Frenectomy
- One common reason for getting a frenectomy is when there is an abnormal or tight frenulum, which can restrict movement and cause issues with speech, feeding, or oral hygiene. For infants, this may manifest as difficulty in breastfeeding due to poor latch or inadequate milk transfer. In older children and adults, it may lead to problems such as lisping or difficulty pronouncing certain sounds.
- Another reason to opt for a frenectomy is a condition called ankyloglossia, more commonly known as tongue tie. This occurs when the lingual frenulum (the tissue under the tongue) is too short or tight, limiting its range of motion. Tongue ties can affect proper swallowing, dental health, and even cause sleep apnea in severe cases.
- Additionally, individuals seeking orthodontic treatment might require a frenectomy before braces are applied. In some cases, an excessive labial frenum (the tissue connecting the upper lip to the gum) may create gaps between teeth by pulling them apart.
Types of Frenectomy Procedures
Here are some of the types of frenectomy procedures commonly performed by our experienced oral surgeons:
This procedure involves removing or releasing the lingual frenum, which is the small band of tissue connecting the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. A lingual frenectomy can help improve tongue mobility and alleviate issues such as speech impediments or difficulty breastfeeding.
In this procedure, the labial frenulum, which is located between the upper lip and gums or lower lip and gums, is removed or released. A labial frenectomy is often performed to address conditions like diastema (gaps between teeth) or gum recession caused by an overly tight labial frenum.
The maxillary frenum refers to the thin strip of tissue that connects the upper gums to the upper lip. When this frenum restricts normal movement, it can lead to orthodontic problems or difficulties with denture retention. A maxillary frenectomy aims to loosen or remove this tissue for improved oral function.
This type of procedure focuses on releasing tension in the mandibular (lower jaw) region by cutting through restrictive tissues like muscle fibers or tendons, causing discomfort during eating, yawning, speaking, etc.
Each type of frenectomy procedure may be performed using different techniques depending on various factors, including patient preference and the surgeon's expertise.
The Benefits of a Frenectomy
Improved Speech and Pronunciation
One of the primary benefits of a frenectomy is improved speech and pronunciation. The frenum can sometimes restrict the movement of the tongue or lips, leading to difficulties in articulating certain sounds. By removing or modifying the frenum, individuals may experience significant improvements in their ability to speak clearly.
Enhanced Oral Hygiene
Another advantage of undergoing a frenectomy is improved oral hygiene. When the frenum is too tight or positioned incorrectly, it can make it challenging to clean certain areas properly. This can lead to an increased risk of plaque buildup, gum disease, and tooth decay. After a successful frenectomy procedure, individuals will find it easier to maintain good oral health habits.
Increased Comfort and Reduced Pain
Some patients may experience discomfort or even pain due to an overly tight or restrictive frenum. It can cause irritation and soreness in the mouth, especially while eating or speaking for extended periods. A frenectomy can alleviate this discomfort by releasing tension in the affected area and promoting better overall oral function.
Better Breastfeeding Experience
For infants with tongue-tie (a condition where the lingual frenulum restricts proper movement), a frenectomy can greatly improve breastfeeding success rates. By correcting this issue early on through a simple surgical procedure, babies are able to latch onto their mothers’ breasts more effectively, ensuring they receive adequate nutrition.
Enhanced Quality of Life
One cannot underestimate how much having a functional mouth contributes to overall well-being and quality of life. Frenectomies have been known to make everyday activities such as eating and speaking more enjoyable without any restrictions or limitations caused by an abnormality in the structure of the mouth.
At our practice, patient care is at the forefront of everything we do. That's why, when it comes to frenectomies, we utilize advanced techniques such as a Z-plasty or a V-Y-plasty using an electrocautery or laser. These allow us to perform the procedure with utmost precision and minimal trauma for our patients. By employing these cutting-edge methods, we also ensure there is no postoperative bleeding, providing a seamless recovery process.
Whether it's a newborn baby up to three months old or someone in their adult years, this procedure can be safely performed on individuals at any stage of life. However, research has shown that early intervention yields the best results, making timely treatment highly recommended for optimal outcomes.
To learn more about the services we offer, visit Associated Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons at one of our three convenient locations. You can find our Frederick dental office at 6550 Mercantile Drive E, Suite 101, Frederick, MD 21703, our Hagerstown dental office at 1144 Opal Court, Hagerstown, MD 21740, and our Martinsburg dental office at 1007 Sushruta Dr, Martinsburg, WV 25401. You can also call us for any queries at (301) 694-0870, (301) 733-2500, or (304) 263-0991, respectively.