But first, what’s a frenum? Or is it frenulum? The short answer is, they’re one and the same—a small fold of muscular tissue that prevents an organ in the body from moving too far. There are several in the body, but the two we’ll be discussing today are located in the mouth—labial frenum and lingual frenum.
The labial frenum connects the inside of the upper lip to the gums between the two upper front teeth. Everyone has one, but sometimes it can be malformed—too short, too long, too rigid—and cause a host of problems for children. Sometimes the labial frenum can create a large gap between the two front teeth, and cause gum recession as the frenum pulls the gums away from the teeth. If the labial frenum is too tight, sometimes it can create an open-mouth position that inhibits the mouth from properly sealing, which can cause mouth breathing and improper development of the airway and jaw.
The lingual frenum connects the lower floor of the mouth to the tongue. Most of us can move our tongues around freely for easy speaking and eating, but if the lingual frenum is too tight or too short, it can inhibit the movement of the tongue. This is a condition commonly known as “tongue-tie.”
Hearing your baby babble their first words and learn to speak is one of the greatest joys of parenting. Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) can prevent babies and children from being able to breastfeed, eat, and speak properly. Tongue-tie can inhibit proper jaw development, cause long-term orthodontic problems, and sometimes lead to sleep apnea.
When the tongue is unable to press against the upper palate during swallowing, it will begin to press against or between the front teeth instead which can affect the development of a proper bite. Tongue-tie is also one of the most common culprits of speech impediments including lisp.
Whether our concern is the labial or lingual frenum, the procedure is generally the same. Frenectomy involves snipping or removing the frenum to allow for a greater range of motion of the lips or tongue. First, we will use a local anesthetic to numb the area and ensure your little one doesn’t feel a thing. Sometimes dental lasers can be used instead of or in combination with traditional dental tools as a minimally invasive alternative with less bleeding and faster healing.
Left untreated, problems with the frenum can cause a domino effect of consequences for the oral health, aesthetics, development, and function of your child’s smile. If you’ve noticed any of the signs and symptoms discussed above including painful breastfeeding or gapped front teeth, you may want to consider coming in to see Richmond pediatric dentist Dr. Malije Onwueme for an exam. We can tell you if this tiny bit of tissue is the source of the problem and provide a solution that gives your little one the freedom to grow up happy and healthy.
The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
With a big smile and a positive attitude, Dr. Mali aims to provide an exceptional dental experience for children along with a warm and caring environment for families. She resides locally with her husband and two young children. In her spare time, she enjoys travelling, watching soccer, trying new foods, and spending time with her husband and children.