Frena are small folds (also called “bands”) of tissue located in the mouth: under the tongue, inside the upper lip, inside the lower lip and connecting the cheeks to the gums. A frenectomy is a simple surgical procedure to loosen or release these bands. An oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS) typically performs a frenectomy to increase the range of motion of the tongue (removing the lingual frenum) or to close a gap in a patient’s upper front teeth (removing the labial frenum). Frenectomies can be performed via scalpel, electrosurgery or laser surgery.
The lingual frenum connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth, and its size and flexibility vary from person to person. These variations mean that some people will have a lingual frenum that restricts the movement of the tongue. This is sometimes referred to as a “tongue-tied.” Infants with this condition can have difficulty with nursing and, eventually, with speaking. A lingual frenectomy is a quick procedure that reduces the size of the frenum, allowing the tongue to move freely. If restricted tongue movement is discovered early, a frenectomy can be performed as early as the first few weeks after birth.
The labial frenum connects the inside upper lip to the gum area near the front teeth, posing potential orthodontic and hygiene issues. When the labial frenum extends too near the gum line, it can affect the spacing and growth of a patient’s upper two front teeth. Although many parents and patients worry about the gap for cosmetic reasons, extra space between the teeth can make it easier for food to become stuck and contribute to gingivitis.
Learn More from an OMS
Although a labial or lingual frenectomy is a common procedure, it is oral surgery and should still be performed by a qualified professional. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are the experts in face, mouth and jaw surgery – find an OMS nearby.