A frenectomy is a surgical procedure that alters the frenulum. Which is a soft tissue that typically binds two organs together. It mostly functions to provide stability and support to certain organs such as the tongue and lips.
The frenulum is found in several places on the body, from the penis to the mouth and even the digestive tract. Any modification done to the frenulum is called frenectomy. Even a circumcision is a frenectomy. But in this article we will only address oral frenectomy.
What Is a Frenectomy?
A frenctomy is a very simple procedure in which doctors modify the frenulum in any area on the body. But more recently, and in terms of cosmetic surgery, a frenectony is an oral procedure in which only the frenula in the mouth are altered.
The procedure is only beneficial if a person has some sort of defect in their frenulum.
Types of Frenula in the Mouth
There are three types of frenula in the mouth – labial frenula, lingual frenula, and buccal frenula.
- Labial frenula: The labial frenula are located in the front of the mouth and connect the lips to the gums. There are two labial frenula – the maxillary labial frenulum that connects the upper lip to the gums above the front teeth and the mandibular labial frenulum that connects the lower lip to the gums below the front teeth. When these frenula are too tight, they can cause spacing between the front teeth or other issues with oral function.
- Lingual frenula: The lingual frenulum connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth and is located at the midline of the underside of the tongue. When the lingual frenulum is too short, thick, or tight, it can restrict the movement of the tongue, causing difficulty with speech, eating, or other activities that involve the tongue. This condition is known as tongue-tie or ankyloglossia.
- Buccal frenula: The buccal frenula are located on the inside of the cheeks and connect the cheeks to the gums. There are two buccal frenula – the maxillary buccal frenulum that connects the upper cheek to the gums above the molars and the mandibular buccal frenulum that connects the lower cheek to the gums below the molars. While these frenula are not as commonly associated with oral issues, they can sometimes be too tight and affect oral function.
When Is a Frenectomy Necessary?
A frenectomy may be necessary for a variety of reasons, including:
- Tongue-tie: Tongue-tie, or ankyloglossia, is a condition where the lingual frenulum is too short, tight, or thick, which can restrict the movement of the tongue. This can affect speech, eating, and other activities that involve the tongue. A frenectomy can help to loosen or remove the frenulum, allowing for greater tongue mobility.
- Lip-tie: Lip-tie is a condition where the labial frenulum is too thick or tight, which can cause spacing between the front teeth or affect the ability to breastfeed. A frenectomy can help to reduce or eliminate these problems.
- Orthodontic treatment: In some cases, a frenulum can interfere with orthodontic treatment by pulling on the gums or teeth. A frenectomy can help to alleviate this tension and allow for proper alignment of the teeth.
- Periodontal problems: A tight frenulum can cause gum recession and lead to periodontal disease. A frenectomy can help to reduce this tension and improve gum health.
What Causes a Tight Frenulum?
A tight frenulum is merely a knot that doesn’t allow the tissue to fully extend. Typically, it is a birth defect. But some people can get defected frenulum from accidents as well.
How Does the Procedure Work?
A frenectomy procedure is a relatively simple and straightforward surgical procedure that the patient can perform in a dental or medical office. The procedure typically involves numbing the area with a local anesthetic, making a small incision, and then removing or modifying the frenulum. The incision is then closed with dissolvable stitches or left to heal on its own.
After the procedure, there may be some mild discomfort, swelling, and bleeding. Patients are typically advised to avoid hard, crunchy, or spicy foods for a few days and to maintain good oral hygiene. Pain medication and ice packs can help to manage any discomfort. Most patients can return to normal activities within a few days.
Aftercare in a frenectomy is just as simple as the procedure itself. The healing period is a week and during that time it’s best to eat soft foods. This is because hard foods can make crumbs that might get stuck between the frenulum during recovery. So to be safe and avoid infection, make sure your diet for the first 7 days at least consists of soft foods.
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