IT’S COMMON ENOUGH to be tongue-tied in the sense of not being able to get your words out, but a tongue tie is also a real medical condition, as is a lip tie. These conditions are both caused by pieces of tissue in the mouth called frena. One frenum connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth, and another connects the upper lip to the upper gums. These aren’t the only two frena we have, but they’re the important ones for this subject.
Normal Versus Abnormal Frena
A normal frenum is thin and very stretchy, allowing for the free mobility of the lips and the tongue, which is important for normal chewing, talking, and swallowing. If the upper lip or tongue frenum is unusually thick or tight, it can restrict movement and make each of those functions harder. This is a tongue tie or a lip tie.
A person with a tongue tie may not be able to lift their tongue to touch the roof of their mouth, causing significant difficulties for word pronunciation, chewing, and swallowing. A person with a lip tie may have a large gap between their upper front teeth and a higher risk of gum recession. In infancy, they may not be able to effectively latch while breastfeeding.
How We Treat Lip and Tongue Ties
Fortunately, with modern dentistry, there’s an easy fix for lip and tongue ties. A simple surgery called a frenectomy can be done to remove or reduce the abnormal frenum. In cases where the lip or tongue’s movement is restricted and particularly if there is pain or discomfort, the procedure is definitely worth considering.
A frenectomy is a very quick procedure with a short recovery time. In most cases, the procedure is performed by oral surgeons or periodontists (gum health specialists). They will first numb the area, then make a small incision in the frenum to release, reduce, or remove it.
Some doctors use laser surgery to cut through the tissue and shorten recovery time. A laser also lowers the (already small) risk of complications. Make sure to follow all post-operation instructions to achieve the best results with the shortest recovery.
Your Dentist Can Diagnose a Lip or Tongue Tie
For most of us, frena aren’t something we ever have to think about because they aren’t causing us problems, but if you believe yours or your child’s might be interfering with the normal function of the lips or tongue, schedule an appointment with the dentist to find out. We can take a look and determine whether you would benefit from a frenectomy.