How well do we know our own mouths? We know we have teeth, tongue, a soft palate, gums. But what about the soft skin that runs between our lips and our gums? Is that part of the gums? That thin tissue is called the frenulum, and it helps support your upper and lower lips while also providing stability to your tongue and mouth.
Interested to know more? Here’s a brief overview of the frenulum and whether there are any frenulum problems you should look out for.
What Is Frenulum In The Mouth?
A frenulum in the mouth, also referred to as frenum, is a soft tissue that forms a thin line between your gums and lips. This line is present both on the bottom and top of your mouth.
There is also a frenum that extends along the underside of your tongue and links to the bottom of your mouth behind your teeth. There is no set thickness or length for the frenum as it is distinct in every person.
Since the frenulum is made of thin, soft tissue, it can get easily damaged when doing activities that involve the mouth, like eating. Wearing oral appliances like dental braces can also hurt the frenulum and make it bleed.
However, usually, no major medical treatment as the frenulum can heal on its own.
Different Types Of Frenulum
The frenum is categorized into two types — the lingual and the labial frenum.
1. Lingual Frenulum
This frenulum connects the base of your tongue to the floor of your mouth. If your lingual frenum is tight, it is medically termed as tongue tie and can impact the way your tongue moves in your mouth.
In babies, this can lead to difficulties in latching and nursing.
2. Labial Frenulum
This frenulum is located in front of your mouth, between your lower lip and lower gum, and between your upper lip and your upper gum.
Any problem with labial frenulum can also result in dental problems. In particular, if the frenulum pulls your gums away from your tooth, it can leave the roots of your teeth exposed and sensitive.
Cause of Frenulum Tear or Damage
A labial frenulum tear is common in children because of rough play and falling, which can tear the upper labial frenulum. Such falls are common in kids and the injury will usually heal pretty easily.
In people who have an overbite, if they fall and bite their lips, it can also cause frenulum tear.
It should be noted that a frenulum tear runs of the risk of re-injury. And if the frenulum gets cut, it does not regrow and the scar tissue may develop some hard patches.
Possible Problems Concerning Frenulum
The primary function of the frenum is to provide stability to your upper and lower lip and tongue. However, if there is an abnormal frenulum growth (an oversized frenulum), it can significantly impact a person’s lifestyle.
Here are some of the common conditions one may experience because of a frenulum problem:
#1. Pain and discomfort when swallowing
#2. Malformed development in the mouth
#3. Frenulum tear
#4. Speech concerns
#5. Snoring and mouth breathing
#6. Inability to fully extend your tongue
#7. Formation of a gap in between your front teeth
#8. Receding gums
#9. Lip-tie or tongue-tie can make it difficult for babies to nurse
How Long Do Frenulum Symptoms Typically Last?
If the frenulum is damaged and is bleeding, it is not a cause for concern. When you apply pressure on the area, the bleeding should stop in a matter of minutes.
However, the pain can last for a couple of hours until the next day, depending on the force of the trauma.
Will The Tissue Heal On Its Own?
A torn frenulum tissue needs about 3 to 4 days to heal. Seldom would there be a need for medical treatment because developing infections or any complications in that area is rare.
Should I See A Doctor Or Other Healthcare Provider?
There is no need to see a doctor for a torn frenulum. However, if a young child’s frenulum is damaged, then for your peace of mind, it would be advisable to see your physician and ensure that there is no reason to worry.
Medical treatment for a damaged frenulum is not necessary. It will heal on its own even without a doctor’s intervention.
While your frenulum is healing, you can apply a cold compress to the area to help with the pain. Over-the-counter painkillers can also help.
However, there are some instances when you need to seek medical assistance:
#1. There are signs of an infection.
#2. The bleeding continues even after applying pressure for more than 10 minutes.
#3. You start having difficulties in breathing.
If you want to seek medical help for an abnormal frenulum, one of the procedures commonly recommended is a frenectomy. It is an oral surgery that involves removing the frenulum.
It is a quick surgery that is usually carried out under local anesthesia. The patient is released soon after and the recovery period is quite brief, involving minimal pain or discomfort.