If you have ever wondered if the small fold of tissue under your tongue a real purpose has, then stop wondering. The small fold of tissue is called a frenulum. This connective tissue helps restrain or secure motion of the mobile part of the body, i.e. the tongue. A torn frenulum is a tear in this connective tissue, and will cause more pain than damage in most cases. It is also important to note, the term “frenulum” can refer to different areas of the body.
Some of the other body parts in which a frenulum is found are: the brain, digestive tract, penis (for men) and vulva (for women). This connective tissue is found under the tongue, under the upper lip, and it is also the connective tissue on the foreskin of the penis. A frenulum is also referred to as a banjo string because of its shape. In some unfortunate cases, the frenulum can be torn and can cause a great deal of pain. Even though the pain of a torn frenulum may be excruciating, this pain will not last forever and neither will the tear be permanent. Unfortunately, a torn frenulum can leave behind scars.
There are different causes for a torn frenulum, depending on which part of the body has a torn frenulum. Some of the causes for this tear are:
- Tongue Tie: a short tongue frenulum tears from the tongue
- Fall or trauma to the face: If a child falls on their face, this can cause a tear in the maxillary frenum of the mouth.
- Forceful feeding
- Over-stretching of the lip
- Forceful placement of the pacifier
- Sexual abuse: A tear can occur in the frenulum of tongue, upper lip, vulva and/or penis. This is often an easily overlooked sign of sexual abuse in children.
- Trauma to the teeth, cheeks or jaw.
- Roughness during sexual intercourse or masturbation
Torn Frenulum Symptoms
Some of the symptoms that can accompany a torn frenulum are:
- Bruising of the surrounding area
- Difficulty moving your tongue
- Trouble talking
One of the easiest ways to diagnosis a torn frenulum is by looking at the affected area. Sometimes patients will go to the dentist for a torn frenulum of the tongue or upper lip because the cause was teeth-related. Doctors can do an oral exam or physical exam can determine if there is a minor or major tear of the frenulum.
If there is tear of the frenulum, it should heal on its own, even though it may be less flexible. If the torn frenulum is not serious, then there is not specific treatment to follow. To stop the bleeding or swelling, use ice packs on the affected area. Sometimes the frenulum needs to be treated via surgery. One of the types of surgeries that can be performed is the frenuloplasty. This type of surgery can help a tight frenulum become elongated to assist with better breastfeeding (in babies) and speech. Another type of surgery is a frenuloplasty. This type of treatment allows for a normal retraction of the foreskin of the penis. If you have ever heard the expression tongue tied, then you should know it refers to a small frenulum. A frenectomy is when the frenulum is completely removed or a section of it is removed, especially for someone who is “tongue tied”. This is a relatively safe produce and is removed using a CO2 laser.
There are some actions you can do to prevent a torn frenulum from occurring or reoccurring. Keep in mind that a recurring tear in the frenulum can happen naturally and often in the same place. To reduce the risk of a torn frenulum, follow the actions below.
- Avoid playing with the frenulum
- Use mouthwash to prevent bacteria build up
- Keep the frenulum always clean, especially after surgery
- Use antibiotic creams such as Soframycin (only on the penis or vulva)
- Avoid sexual intercourse for 4-6 weeks, for both surgical and non-surgical patients
- Use lubrication during sexual intercourse 6 weeks after surgery of the frenulum of the penis
If you have noticed that a young child has suffered from a torn frenulum that appears to unlikely have been caused accidently, do not ignore the situation. There is too much child abuse (physical and sexual) that happens in the world without any one speaking up, especially an adult who suspects something is wrong.