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What is a Frenum, Frenectomy and Frenotomy? Definitions, Procedures, and Care

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Have you ever felt around your mouth and felt the thin band of tissue above your front teeth that connects to your upper lip? Or lifted your tongue, and saw another thin piece of tissue connected to the bottom of your mouth? That’s called a frenulum, or frenum, and it’s a normal part of your mouth. But sometimes, this tissue can be too taught and impair oral function, which might mean that a procedure called a frenectomy or frenotomy is needed. Luckily, these procedures are common. Here, we’ll discuss the frenum, frenectomy and frenotomy procedures, and how to care for your mouth to ensure the healthiest smile.

What Is a Frenulum?

They are two basic types of frenulums: lingual frenulum and labial frenulum.

Lingual Frenulum: the lingual frenulum is located between the base of the tongue and the floor of the mouth—if you look in a mirror and lift up your tongue, you should be able to see it. Lingual frenulums come in all different sizes, and in some cases, might restrict the use of the tongue.

Labial Frenulum: a labial frenulum connects the lip to the gum, located between the upper and lower front teeth. When a frenulum is too wide or long, it can create a space between the two front teeth and other dental issues.

What Is a Frenectomy Vs. Frenotomy in Dentistry?

A frenectomy, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, is a simple surgical procedure where an oral surgeon releases the frenulum bands or removes them. In the case of a lingual frenectomy, this helps increase the motion of the tongue. And with a labial frenectomy, it helps close the gap in the front teeth. Oral surgeons or periodontists typically perform frenectomies with a scalpel, electrosurgery, or laser surgery.

A frenotomy, according to Stanford Medicine, is a procedure where the lingual frenulum is cut but not completely removed and is done when the frenulum is short or tight, causing a condition called ankyloglossia or "tongue-tie". This procedure allows more movement in the tongue.

Is a Frenotomy or Frenectomy Really Necessary?

You might be wondering if you need a frenectomy or frenotomy. In making your decision, it’s important to know the risks if this condition is left untreated.

Issues with the labial frenulum may lead to root exposure, spacing issues, and dental hygiene problems, as the frenulum might pull gum tissue away from the teeth. Orthodontists may not be able to close the gap in teeth, and bone problems may develop. Luckily, these simple procedures can be done at any age.

Issues with the lingual frenulum may lead to restrictions in the mobility and movement of your tongue, which could cause changes in tooth position, speech, and jaw development. This condition is present at birth and is frequently called ankyloglossia or "tongue-tie," according to The Mayo Clinic, and can cause issues with nursing in infants and talking with children. Because the lingual frenulum may loosen as a child grows and resolve tongue-tie or not cause problems later in life, it’s important to consult with your child's pediatrician or dentist.

If you have reservations about getting a frenectomy or frenotomy for yourself, your child, or your infant, don’t worry! You’ll be in good hands, as these procedures are common, and done by dental specialists, including oral surgeons.

Frenotomy and Frenectomy Before And After

What happens after a frenectomy or frenotomy, and how do you care for it after the procedure?

A typical frenotomy only requires a numbing gel, and possibly a local anesthetic. During the procedure, the frenulum is simply cut with sterile scissors in one snip. There is usually little to no blood after the cut, and in the case of a lingual frenotomy for infants, infants can breastfeed immediately.

A frenectomy, while still a simple procedure, is a more involved surgery due to the complete removal of the frenulum, and may require sedation for young children. You may also need stitches. Your oral care provider will provide clear pre-and post-operative instructions so that you’ll have a safe procedure and comfortable frenectomy recovery.

Other Frenectomy and Frenotomy Questions

Because frenectomies are a more intensive process, you might have some remaining questions, such as: how much does a frenectomy cost? What should I eat after a frenectomy? If you have any questions regarding your procedure, reach out to your oral surgeon or dentist for all the information you’ll need.

A frenectomy and frenotomy help to eliminate conditions in the mouth that may lead to oral health issues, and ultimately lead to long-term positive change. Luckily, these procedures are common, and your oral care professional will provide you with all the information you need prior to your procedure so that you’ll be smiling bigger and brighter in no time.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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