What is a Lingual Frenulum?
The lingual frenulum is the tissue that connects your tongue to the bottom of your mouth. You can see it when you look in the mirror and lift your tongue up. You can see the soft, veiny tissue in the bottom of your mouth, and a thin pail colored tissue on the underside of your tongue. In some, this frenulum is “short” or has grown in a way that limits movement in the mouth. Individuals born with a short frenulum have a difficult time chewing, swallowing, speaking, and smiling. It can also make feeding difficult for babies. Individuals with this frenulum disorder are colloquially called “tongue-tied” but the proper term is ankyloglossia. Short lingual frenulum is often treated with a lingual frenectomy.
What is a lingual frenectomy?
A lingual frenectomy is a procedure where some or all of the lingual frenulum is removed, to allow the patient free movement. The surgery is usually done by an Ear, Nose, and Throat surgeon, or a dental care team or dental surgeon. The section of tongue which has been surgically altered needs to be monitored for infection and hygienic cleanliness. The actual procedure usually only takes a few minutes, and the recovery is very mild and usually only takes a few days. Within days, newborns will have better access for feeding and older individuals should have improved speech, eating, and swallowing.
When should you consider a lingual frenulum surgery for yourself or your child?
- If the individual has trouble chewing
- If the individual has trouble swallowing
- If the newborn has difficulty nursing or feeding
- If you or your child have difficulty speaking. Be sure to speak with an ENT or speech pathologist if available.
- If the individual is experiencing sharp, persistent pain under the tongue while chewing, swallowing, feeding, or speaking
If you are having any of the following symptoms, and you discuss options with your health care professional, they may recommend a lingual frenectomy. Lingual frenectomies are very common, done with advanced technology, and have a short recovery time.
What is the process for a lingual frenulum removal surgery?
Your surgical team should prepare you for what to expect and how to care for your tongue and mouth after surgery. Here is a simplified rundown.
- Numb the bottom of the mouth. The area around the frenulum, and the tissue of the frenulum, will be numbed with local anesthetic. You may also opt to simply be asleep with anesthesia.
- An incision is made on the lingual frenulum. The tissue may be cut or totally removed to allow the tongue movement. Stitches may be placed to allow the wound to heal or reduce bleeding.
- Care instructions should be delivered to you before discharge. As a rule, do not rinse your mouth for 24 hours after surgery.
Discuss options with your health care professional, and use the resources of a dental hygienist before and after surgery. It will be of paramount importance to practice excellent hygiene after surgery to reduce any chance of infection or irritation to the surgical site.