What is a Frenectomy, and Who Needs One?

This blog is for informational purposes and doesn’t establish a doctor-patient relationship. Learn more.

Frenectomies are one of our areas of expertise at Expedition Pediatric Dentistry. A frenectomy can also help with a variety of nursing, oral health, and speech issues. But what exactly is a frenectomy? And who can benefit? Let’s explore.

What is a frenectomy for infants or children?

We’ll begin with some basic anatomy: small bands of fibrous tissue attach our lips and tongues to our mouths. For some infants and children, the attachment is too tight or thick, which restricts movement. This excessive attachment of the tongue may be called a tongue tie or ankyloglossia. If it happens on the lip, it may be referred to as a lip tie.

Now onto what a frenectomy is. A frenectomy or frenotomy is a procedure that releases tissue and, subsequently, the lip and tongue. This increases the range of motion and can help address a variety of oral health issues for infants and children.

Frenectomies for Nursing

A frenectomy may improve nursing if your infant has: 

  • Inadequate or painful latching 
  • Difficulty gaining weight 
  • Excessive fatigue while breastfeeding 
  • Short, frequent unproductive feedings
  • Colic symptoms

After a frenectomy, an infant may be able to nurse more easily, and mom may be relieved of nipple pain or infections. For infants, a Board-Certified Lactation Consultant or IBCLC, can help develop strategies to improve nursing before and after a frenectomy is performed.

Frenectomies for Speech and Oral Health

A frenectomy may improve speech and oral health if your child has: 

  • Difficulty with the T, D, L, N, R, TH, SH, and Z sounds in English
  • Difficulty with the rolling R sounds in Spanish
  • A heart-shaped tongue, when extended out of the mouth 
  • Food frequently trapped between lips and teeth
  • Gingival recession or exposed roots of teeth

For children with speech problems, a speech-language pathologist should determine if the tongue can be appropriately placed, and speech therapy should continue after the frenectomy. For children, a frenectomy may free the tongue to learn new positions and create new sounds. While the frenectomy releases the tissue and increases mobility, the brain still needs to learn how to use the muscles to feed or create the proper sounds.

What kinds of specialists offer frenectomies?

A variety of specialists can perform frenectomies, including pediatric dentists, plastic surgeons, oral surgeons, and otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat specialists). If you’re in Bellevue, Washington, you can read more about scheduling a frenectomy at our office.

What matters most is finding a specialist who knows how to properly perform the procedure. While visiting the pediatric dentist for a routine child or infant oral health exam, oral frenums can be evaluated and easily monitored. 

Like specialists, a variety of surgical tools, including lasers, may be used for frenectomies. While no technique has been shown to be superior, we have found that when performed with a laser, there is typically limited or no bleeding. The tissue of the frenums may be anesthetized with a small amount of anesthetic to ensure the infant or child is comfortable during the frenectomy. 

Frenectomies at Expedition Pediatric Dentistry

For both infants and children, work on feeding and pronunciation continues well beyond a successful frenectomy. But it can have a tremendous impact on your infant or child’s nursing, speech, and oral health.

Want to learn more about frenectomies at Expedition Pediatric Dentistry? Dr. Miller and our team would be delighted to care for your child’s smile! We offer comprehensive pediatric dental care in Bellevue, WA. Please contact us to schedule an appointment or learn more about our other services.

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