Infant & Children's Frenectomies
What is a Frenectomy?
A frenectomy is a procedure that may benefit infants, children and adults with speech, digestive, airway, periodontal (gum), orthodontic spacing issues and more.
Dr. Yu Ong has specialized training in frenectomies involving tethered oral tissues (TOTS), a collective term encompassing all frenum causing lip and tongue ties. He has treated hundreds of infants in addition to adults for this procedure. He treats infants under age 1 and children and adults over age 10.
The word frenum, or frenulum, describes the tough tissue that attaches any organ to its neighboring tissue to restrict its motion—for example, the thick band of tissue that attaches the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. It is like a tether to limit movement. There several frenums in the human body but only a few that commonly require frenectomy,, and they are all inside the mouth. Common frenectomies involve the tongue and upper lip.
In some cases, the frenum is too short, tight or tough and basically does its job too well. The inhibited movement causes difficulty with regular tasks like eating and talking or causes gaps in the smile. The frenectomy is the simple procedure by which the frenum is severed and typically removed to free up more movement. It’s a low-risk, outpatient procedure that is usually successful the first time in solving the targeted problem.
There are two connective tissues in the mouth known as frenums. These frenums connect tissue together to provide stable and ample movement of the lip or tongue. When one of these frenums is unusually short, it will need to be altered or removed to provide free movement of the child's mouth. Frenectomies are very common and are often easier to perform when a child is young and has time to develop after the procedure.
Laser Frenectomy – How Does It Work?
A soft tissue laser does not cut. Instead, it vaporizes tissue with light energy almost painlessly. In addition, the laser procedure causes almost no bleeding. Lasers sterilize at the touch and therefore cause less risk of infection. Healing is very quick—a laser stimulates bio-regeneration. The result is beautiful tissue and less chance of relapse.
What Does It Really Mean?
Ankyloglossia, or tongue-tie, is the restriction of tongue movement as a result of fusion or adherence of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. A tongue-tie is caused by a frenum that is abnormally short or attached too close to the tip of the tongue.
Normal tongue function is important for multiple reasons. Among the many benefits, normal tongue function allows a baby to latch adequately and breastfeed efficiently, promotes normal speech development, makes it possible for a child to self-cleanse the mouth during eating, supports adequate swallowing patterns, allows for proper growth and development, and makes fun little things like eating ice cream, kissing, or sticking your tongue out to catch snowflakes possible.
Challenges That Can Occur With A Tongue-Tie
- Inability to open mouth widely, affecting speech and eating habits
- Inability to speak clearly when talking fast/loud/soft
- Clicking jaws
- Pain in jaws
- Protrusion of the lower jaw (inferior prognathism)
- Effects on social situations such as kissing, licking ice cream
- Dental health complications such as a tendency toward inflamed gums and increased need for periodontal surgery
- In the elderly, difficulty in keeping a denture in place
How Can A Lip-Tie Affect My Child?
A LIP-TIE OCCURS WHEN THE UPPER LIP REMAINS ATTACHED TO THE UPPER GUM. CHALLENGES THAT CAN OCCUR IN CHILDREN AND INFANTS WITH MODERATE TO SEVERE LIP-TIES INCLUDE:
- Pain with breastfeeding
- Inability to adequately flange the maxillary lip upward during breastfeeding, affecting an infant’s latch and ability to create a good seal
- Formation of a large gap between the maxillary central incisors, called a diastema
- Difficulties with brushing and flossing
- Increased risk of dental decay
- Repeated trauma to the maxillary frenum because it is so low and prominent
Why would your infant or child need a Frenectomy?
If your child's labial or lingual frenum is too short, it can restrict movement of the tongue and lip. This can make it difficult for your child to eat, chew and even smile because of the frenum getting in the way of normal movement. During a routine dental exam, we will be able to tell if your child is having issues because of the size and shape of their frenum. We will then discuss options concerning removing or altering the size of this connective tissue.
What makes your child a good candidate for a Frenectomy?
Often times, parents will notice that there is a problem with their child if they are unable to smile fully or if they have limited movement of their tongue. For infants, this can make it difficult for them to feed properly and comfortably. For toddlers, it can make it difficult for them to speak, which may be construed as a speech impediment. A frenectomy can be performed right in our office and is less invasive than you might think. It can be performed on both infants as well as children.
What happens during the procedure for a Frenectomy?
To make the procedure more comfortable, we will use sedation to put your child into partial or full sleep. The frenum is then cut or severed so that movement is restored to either the upper lip or tongue that it was affecting. The surgery takes very little time and can be done in less than an hour in our office. Because the surgery is being done on an infant or child, their body is likely to heal quicker than if it was done in adulthood and the mouth will adapt easily to the frenum being severed or altered in size and shape. We understand that it can be confusing to understand the meaning of a frenectomy and what it can do for your child, so we're here to answer any questions you may have regarding this procedure.
Our Bellevue clinic, Art of Pediatric Dentistry, provides expert frenectomy services for children in Kirkland, Redmond, and Issaquah. Our team ensures a comfortable and safe procedure, using advanced techniques to support your child's dental health and development. If you think your child may benefit from a frenectomy or you want to know more about this procedure, call our office and we will be more than happy to further assist you.