Why does my child need a Frenectomy?
While many people may be familiar with a ‘tongue-tie’, they are a lot less familiar with a ‘frenectomy’, the procedure used to correct it. Medically known as ‘ankyloglossia’, tongue-ties occur in about 5% of babies and are the result of the connective tissue attachment found under the tongue (the lingual frenum) being too short. A lingual frenum that is too short can significantly restrict tongue movement and cause impairments with breastfeeding and speech.
Infants may also have a shortened labial frenum (connective tissue attachment between the upper lip and the gums above the front teeth) which can similarly cause problems with breastfeeding and speech, but it can also cause dental problems such as decay and the formation of a gap between the two front teeth (diastema).
To avoid these complications associated with a shortened labial or lingual frenum, your child’s dentist may recommend that they get a frenectomy. A frenectomy is a quick and easy in-office procedure that releases the tongue or lip tie so that normal function can be restored. Though frenectomies are not always recommended, there are some cases where they may be necessary.
Indications for a Frenectomy
Your child may be a candidate for a frenectomy if they have any of the following:
Problems with breastfeeding/feeding: where breastfeeding is very difficult or painful, a frenectomy may be beneficial. A tongue-tie makes it difficult for infants to swallow because mobility is significantly restricted. Where the tongue-tie is severe, it is removed at the hospital before they are discharged. Children with tongue-ties are also more likely to develop a high-arched palate as there is a lack of shaping and molding by the muscular activity of the tongue.
Problems with their speech: the tongue and lip are crucial for the articulation of words and where movement is restricted, children will have problems pronouncing certain sounds and so speech impediments such as lips are common.
Sleep issues: if your child is always sleeping with their mouth open, this could be because a tight labial frenum is preventing their lips from meeting at rest. This is unfortunate because persistent mouth breathing can lead to dental problems such as an anterior open bite.
Sleep apnea may also occur because of the improper muscular tone of the tongue so that it sits in a more posterior position that can potentially restrict the airway. Where there is sleep-disordered breathing, possible complications such as snoring, teeth grinding, and even behavioral problems can occur.
Dental issues: where a lip or tongue-tie is present, the risk of cavities on the surfaces of teeth is increased as the cleansing mechanism that is normally carried out by the soft tissues of the mouth is prevented. This causes cavities on the front surface of incisors and gum recession to occur (causing teeth to look abnormally large). Additionally, cavities on the chewing surfaces of molars are more likely as the child is unable to use their tongue to remove food from these sites.
How is a frenectomy performed?
As mentioned before, frenectomies are simple procedures that can be performed right in your pediatric dentist’s office, in about 15 minutes.
Previously, frenectomies were done using a scalpel blade to remove the tissue to correct the lip or tongue tie.
However, this usually caused a fair amount of bleeding and discomfort to the patient and increased the likelihood of scar tissue and reattachment.
Thankfully, significant advances in dentistry and laser technology have allowed for the use of soft-tissue lasers that emit a focused beam on the tissue to be removed.
This is a much more favorable method as it produces minimal discomfort, minimal bleeding, and healing is usually rapid and uncomplicated, making it perfectly suited for babies and young children. In cases where a child may be too young to sit for the procedure or where they have dental anxiety, Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas) or other forms of sedation can be used to ensure comfort and safety throughout the procedure. Where frenectomies are combined with speech and feeding therapy, there is the maximum benefit.
So, if you have a fussy feeder on your hands or are concerned about speech or sleep problems that your child may be experiencing because of a tongue or lip tie, do not despair, there is a quick and easy fix. Located in Torrance? Visit Pearly Smiles Pediatric Dentistry to find out more about frenectomies and how they can help you and your child. With her expertise and gentle touch, Dr. Mori Aletomeh and her warm and friendly staff can provide you with the solution you are looking for.