What is a frenectomy?
In the mouth, bands of tissue called frenums, help movement in the mouth. The tight ligament that attaches the upper lip to the gums is called the labial frenum. The one attaching the tongue to the base of the mouth is the frenulum of the tongue also referred to as the lingual frenum. When a frenum is too short or thick, this can lead to a tongue tie or lip tie. A tongue-tie or lip tie can interfere with your speech and mobility of your tongue as well as cause issues with tooth alignment. The corrective surgery for this condition is called a frenectomy and involves loosening of the tight frenum.
A frenectomy may be necessary if a tongue tie or lip tie:
- Leads to difficulty breastfeeding your baby.
- Causes speech problems in your child at 12-18 months.
- Interferes with your child‘s ability to stick his or her tongue out as far as others can.
- Interferes with the fit of your dentures
- Causes difficulty swallowing, eating or speaking.
Having a tight or thick frenum may have the following consequences:
- Low Tongue Position: The tongue lies lower in the mouth, which causes abnormal growth of the lower and upper jaw which may lead to orthodontic problems in the future as well as a tendency for sleep apnoea.
- Swallowing Dysfunction: Upon swallowing, the tongue should rest against the upper palatal vault. If its frenum is too tight, it will rest lower, that is between the teeth causing an open bite and difficulty swallowing.
- Lisping: Due to improper tongue positioning, lisping and speech problems due to a tight lingual frenum are common.
- Diastema Formation: Due to the extension of the frenum between the two front teeth, spaces between them usually do not close and form what we know as diastemata.
- Recession: As the lip moves, it makes the frenum continually tug on the gum tissue filling which may lead to recession and gum pockets.
- Open Mouth Posture: a frenum that is too tight limits lip function and can thus have an effect on the "lip seal" which is vital for proper nose breathing. This may be detrimental to posture, jaw growth and airway development.
Babies who are born with thick or tight frenums often suffer from a tongue-tie or a lip-tie which negatively affects breastfeeding and may be very stressful for new moms. Breastfeeding babies with this condition may be extremely difficult physically as the baby may not latch properly causing damaged nipples, cracks, bruises, and pain during feeds as well as issues with milk production. In addition, troubles with breastfeeding causes mom's a lot of psychological stress. Because of failing to latch, babies can lose weight very quickly, become extremely gassy and irritable making moms even more frustrated. Diagnosing a tight frenum is easy as moms are often able to see a heart-shaped tongue when their baby cries.
How can it be fixed?
A tongue-tie or lip tie can be fixed with a laser frenectomy by reducing the size of a thick or tight frenum to ensure the mouth is fully functional for talking, eating, breathing and breastfeeding.
What does a laser frenectomy involve?
To begin, Dr Chodree will administer a local anaesthetic to numb the area so that no pain is felt. Once numbed, the laser is used to loosen and thin the frenum. Laser frenectomy is a common procedure and is as quick as a vaccination. The laser requires no stitches, causes minimal bleeding and has a quick recovery period.