A frenectomy, also known as a frenotomy, can refer to any procedure where binding tissue on the body is cut or modified.

Frenectomy procedures are quite common, especially during the infant stage of life. Genital frenectomies, such as circumcision, for example, happen frequently in the United States.

Most of the time, however, the term refers to an oral procedure meant to resolve a tongue tie or a lip tie.

In your mouth, the “frenum” refers to a piece of soft tissue connected to the lips and gums. If the frenum is too short or too tight, it can interfere with breastfeeding, swallowing, or speech development.

This article will cover everything you need to know about oral frenectomies.

The lingual frenum connects your tongue to your mouth. If you touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth, you can probably feel the lingual frenum stretching underneath your tongue.

The length of the lingual frenum varies from person to person. In some cases, people are born with a lingual frenum that’s very short. This shortened frenum restricts the movement of the tongue.

This condition is called ankyloglossia, or “tongue tie.” Tongue tie occurs in nearly 5 percent of infants. It’s more common in boys than in girls.

Tongue tie can interfere with breastfeeding during the infant years and speech development as a child grows older.

A quick procedure called a lingual frenectomy can give the tongue a greater range of motion.

The labial frenum connects your top lip to the gum area right above your front teeth.

If this frenum is shorter than average, it can cause difficulty in speech development. This condition is a type of lip adhesion.

A lip adhesion can also pose a problem with dental development and make it hard to fully clean the gums and front teeth. This raises the risk of gum disease and other dental complications.

A maxillary frenectomy can give the upper lip more mobility.

In most cases, the oral frenectomy procedure is fairly straightforward. Here are the general steps:

  1. After a consultation with your doctor or pediatrician, the person getting the frenectomy procedure will need to be secured while lying faceup. You may need to hold your child during the procedure.
  2. Your doctor may apply a topical anesthetic to the area to numb any pain.
  3. Your doctor will quickly snip the frenum using a scalpel, surgical scissors, or a cauterizing instrument.
  4. If the lip tie is severe or more complicated, it may require a few stitches to close the incision.
  5. The entire procedure will likely take 15 minutes or less from start to finish.

Laser frenectomy

A laser frenectomy is basically the same procedure as a traditional oral frenectomy. The only difference is that the procedure uses a laser, which minimizes the risk of infection and blood loss.

Lip tie and tongue tie are typically identified in infants.

Babies who have these conditions are sometimes not efficient at breastfeeding. This can result in slow weight gain or weight loss in baby.

If you’re breastfeeding, you may experience more pain during feeding if your baby has a lip tie or tongue tie.

A frenectomy is relatively simple to perform on an infant. A healthcare provider or dentist can perform a frenectomy in an office setting. Risks and complications are minimal.

As you grow older, the oral cavity changes significantly. If your speech develops normally and you have no problem eating and drinking, you may not need to treat a tongue tie or lip tie as an adult.

However, a frenum could pull the gums away from the lower front teeth, leading to gum recession. It may also restrict your tongue’s mobility or your ability to move your lips.

In these cases, you may consider an adult frenectomy.

The adult frenectomy procedure may require a longer recovery time than an infant frenectomy.

Insurance usually covers oral frenectomy. As long as you or your child have a referral from a licensed practitioner, the procedure will likely only cost you a copay amount.

Without insurance, the price of this procedure varies widely. One study reports a frenectomy can cost anywhere from $800 to $8,000.

Recovery after an oral frenectomy is generally straightforward.

You’ll need to keep the area clean, which is simple enough for infant patients.

For adults, you may need to limit the foods you eat for the first few days. Food trapped in the affected area could raise your risk for infection.

After an oral frenectomy, your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics to prevent infections or complications.

Within a day or two, the area should begin to heal. After a week, you’ll see that the area is beginning to scar over. You should be able to resume all of your normal activities.

Oral frenectomies are relatively simple, quick in-office procedures. They have become more common in recent years, as some people in the medical community think they can help with breastfeeding and speech development.

Releasing a lip tie or tongue tie carries a very small risk of infection or complications. It should start healing up right away. Speak to your doctor if you suspect that you or your child has a lip tie or tongue tie.