The word frenum means a fold of connecting tissue. In dentistry, the word frenum usually refers to either the tissue under the tongue, or under the upper lip just above the two front teeth. If you look in the mirror, the frenum under your tongue is rather obvious; it connects your tongue to the floor of your mouth. Frenums also connect your gums to your inner cheeks. Problems with a frenum sometimes require its removal, which is called a frenectomy.
A tight frenum under the tongue can restrict tongue movement. This is called being tongue tied; the medical term is ankyloglossia. In babies this can interfere with feeding, and later it can cause problems with speech. A lingual frenectomy is the removal of some of the tissue so that the tongue can move freely.
In dentistry, the more common type of frenectomy is a labial frenectomy. This is the removal of the frenum under the lip and above your front teeth. Adults who are getting dentures often need to have this frenum remove because it can interfere with the fit of the upper denture. In children, the frenum sometimes grows between the two front teeth.
A frenectomy is not always necessary, especially in children, because sometimes problems with the frenum resolve on their own. A frenum that comes between the two teeth can cause a gap in the permanent teeth, which is why some parents choose to have their child undergo a frenectomy at an early age. If the frenum causes pain for the child, a frenectomy is usually recommended.
Frenectomies can be done under local anesthesia in a dentist’s office. For children, frenectomies are often done by a surgeon in a hospital under general anesthesia.
The decision of whether or not to have a frenectomy performed can be confusing. Dr. Aman can examine your or your child’s mouth in his Leesburg office and discuss frenums and potential problems with you, so that you can make an informed decision.