In the mouth, there is a band of soft tissue known as a frenulum that connects each lip to the gums. In this case, this stretchy tissue is called a labial frenulum. There is also this same type of tissue connecting the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth, which is known as the lingual frenulum. These small pieces of soft tissue vary in length and thickness from person to person.
Sometimes a frenulum will get snagged or pulled while eating, kissing, or wearing orthodontic appliances like braces. Although this type of injury tends to bleed considerably, there’s usually no need for stitches or other medical treatment. However, if one or more of the frena tears repeatedly or makes it difficult to use the mouth as normally, we may recommend an oral surgery procedure known as a laser frenectomy.
What is a laser frenectomy?
A laser frenectomy (aka laser frenotomy or frenulum removal) is a surgical procedure in which a frenulum is modified to provide a better range of motion of the lip or tongue. We perform this simple and effective procedure in our dental office using a soft tissue laser.
This minimally invasive surgery is often performed because a frenulum is either too tight or excessively long. The most treated frenal is the upper labial frenulum and the lingual frenulum. Frenectomies are commonly performed on infants who are born with a frenulum that impedes their ability to breastfeed, take a bottle, or develop normal speech. If left untreated, these conditions can also contribute to the following:
- Tooth decay
- Speech difficulties
- Airway problems
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sleep apnea
- Jaw joint pain
- Gum recession
- Digestive issues
If the lingual frenulum is affected, it’s known as a tongue-tie, while a lip-tie affects a labial frenulum. Procedures to correct these conditions specifically are known as a lingual frenectomy and a maxillary frenectomy, respectively.
How does a laser frenectomy work?
Rather than cutting a frenulum as in traditional surgical procedures, a soft tissue laser modifies tissue with light energy. This means much less discomfort, with many infants and children sleeping through the procedure. In addition, there is little to no bleeding, and the laser sterilizes the treatment site while also stimulating bio-regeneration and healing. These aspects of the procedure ensure a faster recovery time and a much lower risk of infection.
What are the benefits of laser frenectomy for children at an early age?
While a laser frenectomy can be performed on a patient at any age, this procedure is especially beneficial for young children. This is because of the long-term effects of a lip-tie or tongue-tie. Both of these conditions can affect the ability to breastfeed or eat, as well as the ability to speak clearly. When performed at the youngest age possible, an infant or toddler can be more readily nourished and have the capability to develop normal speech without having to overcome a speech impediment. In terms of the general benefits of a laser frenectomy versus more invasive procedures, these include:
- Brief treatment time (typically 1 to 2 minutes)
- Little to no bleeding
- No need for sutures
- No need for sedation or general anesthesia
- Quick recovery
- Minimal discomfort or pain
- Minimally invasive
- Little chance for re-attachment
- Increased self-confidence
- Easier chewing, swallowing, and feeding
- Feeding can be (and is encouraged to be) done immediately following the procedure
The laser technology used for a laser frenectomy procedure has revolutionized the dental health industry in ways very similar to other medical health fields. It has replaced previously invasive ways to correct a health issue with a minimally invasive procedure. This shortens recovery time because of a lack of post-operative bleeding and inflammation. In addition, the simultaneous sterilization and stimulation of the surgical site helps prevents infection and promotes new tissue growth.
What are the dangers of laser frenectomy?
A laser frenectomy is simple, quick, and is becoming more and more common because of its value in improving speech development and the child’s ability to breast feed. We perform laser frenectomies in our office with exceptional outcomes. Although, as with any surgical procedure, there is a small risk of complications or infection.
When a laser frenectomy is performed in our office by our expert staff and proper precautions are taken after surgery, these risks are exponentially reduced. Not only will we go over details prior to the procedure, but we will also ensure that your child remains safe and comfortable both during and after their laser frenectomy.