What's A Frenectomy? A Guide To This Common Procedure That Can Improve Your Child's Speech
The last time you escorted your infant, adolescent or teen to the doctor or dentist, was there a concern about the child's frenum? A frenectomy might have been recommended, but there is only one problem: You don't have any idea what a frenum or frenectomy are. Before considering this procedure for your child, here is some valuable information about what is involved with a frenectomy:
What Exactly Is a Frenum?
The frenum is a flap or fold of tissue that attaches a mobile organ to another fixed part of the body. In the case of your child's mouth, the frenum is the fold of tissue that attaches the bottom of their tongue to the inside of their mouth. There are also frenums found inside both the upper and bottom lip. In addition to the mouth, frenums are also found in other areas of the body, including the digestive system and the brain.
When the large frenum is found beneath the tongue, it can limit a child's ability to speak clearly or even eat properly.
Does My Child Need This Procedure?
In some cases, a large frenum is diagnosed when an infant is a few days old, and the surgery is performed before any problems develop. However, this might not be the case when it comes to your child, and you might be wondering if your child requires a frenectomy.
The symptoms of a large frenum vary by age and generally include:
Infants – For infants, a large frenum leads to an inability to latch while breastfeeding, an inability to hold a pacifier properly, colic, weight loss and symptoms of acid reflux.
Children and Teens – Children, adolescents and teenagers with a large frenum often have trouble with their speech. In addition, their frenum will also make it difficult for your child to stick their tongue out, or it may become stuck between their teeth.
If you're a breastfeeding mom with an infant suffering with a large frenum, you might also notice issues with your nipples, such as bleeding, cracked skin or pain while you're baby is attempting to latch.
What Can I Expect?
If your dentist or doctor determines your child has an enlarged frenum, surgery might not even be needed. For example, if you have an infant with a large frenum, the doctor might wait and see if the issue resolves by itself. A child or adolescent with a large frenum might also benefit from speech therapy more than surgery.
However, if your doctor determines a frenectomy is warranted, the procedure is generally performed using a scalpel or laser and in most cases it won't take longer than 30 minutes.
It will take anywhere from a few days to two weeks for your child's wounds to heal completely. In the meantime, restricting their diet and administering over-the-counter pain killers is often all you'll need to do to keep them comfortable.
According to the Mayo Clinic, if the surgeon determines that the frenum tissue is too dense and a frenectomy won't be effective, they might recommend a frenuloplasty. This procedure is more extensive and often involves cutting more of the frenum tissue out of the mouth, resulting in the need for more involved aftercare.
While your child's mouth is healing, don't forget to encourage them to maintain their regular oral health routine, although it might be more comfortable for them to use a soft bristled toothbrush and to rinse with salt water instead of mouthwash.
Although it might sound scary, a frenectomy is a relatively common procedure that won't interfere too much with your child's everyday routine. However, you won't know if a large frenum is the cause of your child's speech or eating issues unless you have their mouth examined by a doctor or dentist.
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