Frenectomy may be a term that is unfamiliar to many people, but it is a common and important dentistry procedure. It involves the removal of a small piece of tissue called the frenum, which connects two areas of soft tissue in the mouth. This is typically done to alleviate issues related to tongue and lip movement.
This article will explore the frenectomy procedure and its importance to people with certain oral conditions. We will also discuss its different types and their respective benefits.
What Is a Frenectomy and When Is It Necessary?
A frenectomy is a minor surgical procedure that removes or alters a band of muscle tissue (frenum) in the mouth that is causing complications. It should be performed based on the individual’s needs and the extent to which the frenum is causing problems.
A frenum is a small piece of skin that connects different parts inside your mouth. You can find one under your tongue, connecting it to the bottom of your mouth. There are also frena connecting the top and bottom of your lips to your gums. These help keep your tongue and lips in place.
Here are some common situations when a frenectomy might be necessary:
Infants With a Tongue or Lip-Tie
Tongue-tie and lip-tie are conditions that are present at birth that may affect an infant’s feeding or a child’s speech or dental health.
- Tongue-Tie: Also called (ankyloglossia), this condition occurs when the thin piece of skin under the baby’s tongue (lingual frenulum) is shorter than usual or extends further toward the tip of the tongue. This restricts the tongue’s range of motion, making it difficult to lift the tongue up or move it from side to side. Tongue-tie can interfere with a baby’s ability to breastfeed and, in some cases, may affect a child’s speech.
- Lip-tie: Lip-tie refers to when the thin membrane attaching the upper lip to the gums (labial frenulum) is thicker or tighter than normal, limiting the movement of the upper lip. This can cause issues with breastfeeding as the baby may not be able to create a proper seal around the nipple. It can also potentially lead to dental problems such as cavities or gaps between the front teeth.
Individuals With Speech Difficulties
A tight or abnormally short frenum can impede tongue movement, resulting in speech difficulties, including lisping and other articulation problems. Children or adults struggling with these speech obstacles may benefit from a frenectomy procedure in Albuquerque at Essenmacher Family Dental.
Children or Adults with Oral Health Issues
An overly tight or short frenum can cause pulling on the gums, which may lead to gum recession over time. Similarly, it can create gaps between the teeth, making oral hygiene challenging. Those experiencing these oral health complications might need to undergo a frenectomy.
Orthodontic Treatment Patients
In many orthodontic cases, especially where there’s a significant gap between the two front teeth, a frenectomy may be required before or after braces to allow the teeth to move closer together or to prevent the gap from reopening.
People Who Experience Discomfort or Pain
Excessive frenum tissue can create discomfort during routine activities like eating, speaking, or wearing dentures (in the case of adults). A frenectomy can help alleviate this discomfort and improve the overall quality of life.
Persons with Difficulty Swallowing or Eating
When the lingual frenulum (the tissue connecting the tongue to the floor of the mouth) is too short or tight, it can affect a person’s ability to swallow or chew food properly. A frenectomy may be recommended to address these challenges.
A high or thick labial frenum (the tissue between the inside of the upper lip and gum) can lead to the ill-fitting of the dentures. This may result in irritation and discomfort, making it difficult for the individual to wear the denture. A frenectomy may improve denture fitting in such cases.
What Are the Different Types of Frenectomy?
1. Lingual Frenectomy
A Lingual Frenectomy targets the lingual frenum, the small tissue connecting your tongue to the bottom of your mouth. This simple procedure is often performed to address ankyloglossia, commonly known as tongue-tie, which can interfere with speech, eating, and normal tongue mobility.
Surgically altering or removing the lingual frenum can improve a patient’s tongue function and overall oral health.
2. Labial Frenectomy/ Maxillary Frenectomy
The procedure known as a maxillary frenectomy addresses the maxillary labial frenum, the tissue connecting the upper lip to the gum above the upper incisors. This labial frenectomy can be particularly advantageous for individuals who have a high or tight frenulum, as this could lead to problems such as the formation of a gap between the front teeth or cause discomfort when smiling or speaking.
By carefully removing or adjusting this frenum, the labial frenectomy can enhance oral function, improve a person’s overall comfort, and augment dental aesthetics.
3. Laser Frenectomy
Laser frenectomy is a modern, minimally invasive, straightforward procedure used in performing frenectomies. Thanks to the application of a soft tissue laser, a concentrated beam of light is used instead of a traditional scalpel to remove or alter the frenum.
This soft tissue laser technology offers several advantages, including less pain, minimal bleeding, and faster healing time. Due to its precision, damage to surrounding tissue is significantly reduced, making it a preferred choice for many oral surgeons.
What Happens During a Frenectomy Procedure?
Step 1: Preparation
Before the surgeon starts the frenectomy procedure, a local anesthetic is used. The surgeon injects this around the area where the frenum is located to numb it. This ensures that the patient doesn’t feel pain during the operation.
Step 2: Incision
Once the affected area is numb, the surgeon then proceeds to the actual removal of the frenum. They use either a scalpel or a laser to make an incision. This step involves either cutting off the frenum or loosening it.
Step 3: Removal
After making the incision, the surgeon then removes or loosens the frenum. The goal here is not necessarily to get rid of the frenum but to free it up to allow for a better range of motion of the mouth.
Step 4: Suturing
Following the removal or loosening of the frenum, sutures may be necessary. This will depend on the extent of the freed area and the surgeon’s judgment. Suturing promotes proper healing and prevents complications from arising.
How Long Does Frenectomy Surgery Take?
Frenectomy surgery is a relatively quick procedure. The actual surgical time can vary based on individual factors and the technique used, but generally, it takes around 15 to 30 minutes. A laser frenectomy can be even quicker, with the laser being used for less than 10 seconds in some cases.
After the procedure, recovery time can also vary. The surgical site typically heals within 2-3 weeks, although full tissue healing may take up to six weeks. If a laser frenectomy is performed, the recovery period could be shorter, with the surgical site potentially healing fully within a week or two.
Please note that these are general estimates and individual experiences may vary. Always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for pre-surgery preparation and post-surgery care.
Are There Any Risks With Frenectomy?
Like any other surgical procedure, a frenectomy carries some associated risks, although they are typically minimal. These include:
- Infection: A higher risk of infection is common in every surgical procedure. Despite the frenectomy being a simple and relatively short operation, there’s still a chance of infection if postoperative care instructions are not followed properly.
- Bleeding: Bleeding is a potential risk with any surgical procedure. While generally minimal, in rare cases, excessive bleeding might occur.
- Reaction to Anesthesia: Some people may have adverse reactions depending on the anesthesia used. These can range from minor side effects like nausea to more severe, though very rare, reactions such as anaphylaxis.
- Damage to Surrounding Tissues: Although very unlikely, given the precision of the procedure, there’s a slight chance that nearby tissues could be unintentionally harmed during the operation. This could lead to additional complications.
- Incomplete Relief from Symptoms: In some cases, the frenectomy might not completely alleviate the symptoms that necessitated the procedure in the first place. This could require additional treatment or even a repeat procedure.
- Healing Difficulties: While most people heal fully and without complication from a frenectomy, issues can arise in delayed healing or the formation of scar tissue.
- Postoperative Pain: Some discomfort and pain is expected after any surgical procedure. It is also possible for nerves in the area to remain hypersensitive for some time, leading to persistent discomfort.
Despite these possible risks, it’s essential to keep in mind that a frenectomy is considered both a common and safe procedure. A thorough consultation with a healthcare provider and appropriate aftercare further reduce these risks.
Does Insurance Cover Frenectomy?
Whether insurance covers a frenectomy often depends on the individual’s insurance provider and plan. Many medical insurers offer coverage for this procedure, especially if it’s deemed medically necessary to address issues such as speech difficulties, feeding problems in infants, or orthodontic concerns.
However, the extent of coverage can vary, with some insurances covering the procedure partially, and others potentially covering it fully. It’s important to note that fees for frenectomy treatment are usually due in full at the time of service. Ensure to check with your specific insurance provider to understand the coverage details and any out-of-pocket costs you may be responsible for.
Discover Better Oral Health With Frenectomy, Consult Essenmacher Family Dental Today
Frenectomy is an ordinary, often necessary dental surgery, best recommended by a dental professional based on individual needs and circumstances. It’s a simple yet life-enhancing step towards better oral health and overall well-being.
At Essenmacher Family Dental, we are here to guide you through all your dental decisions with top-notch care and competence.
If you’re experiencing oral discomfort or if you’re interested in learning more about whether a frenectomy procedure might be proper for you, reach out to us at Essenmacher Family Dental. Our highly skilled professionals are here to ensure your beautiful smile remains intact for years!