Ankyloglossia is a condition characterized by an unusually shortened or thick frenulum. The frenulum is a piece of tissue which lies under the tongue. In people with ankyloglossia, the shortened frenulum limits the tongue's range of motion, and can lead to some complications. For people who require treatment, there is a simple surgery which can be used to free the tongue.
The term ankyloglossia literally means "tongue tied." Some people have a relatively mild form, which is primarily limiting because they may find it challenging to stick their tongues out at people or to engage in activities like touching the tip of the nose with the tongue. For others, the tongue may be so closely tethered that it is essentially trapped at the base of the mouth.
When ankyloglossia is identified, a wait and see approach is often taken. This condition is often identified in children, and many children are able to function just fine without any intervention. If the shortened frenulum starts to cause problems with feeding or speaking, however, it may be time to take steps to address the situation for reasons of patient comfort. Patients may also opt for treatment for aesthetic reasons.
Ankyloglossia rarely causes life threatening complications. Primarily, it becomes inconvenient, or makes it difficult to eat or speak, leading a patient to pursue treatment. Some people adapt to their shortened frenulums and are perfectly happy the way they are.
The surgery to treat ankyloglossia is known as a frenotomy or a frenuloplasty. In this procedure, the offending strip of tissue is simply snipped so that the tongue can move freely. It is often done under a local anesthetic, and commonly no stitches are required. If a more extensive procedure it needed, some stitches may be placed, in which case they will be made from absorbable sutures so that they will break down quickly as the mouth heals, limiting irritation.
Healing time from a frenotomy to treat ankyloglossia is very quick. Patients may be advised to rinse their mouths after each meal for a few days to reduce infection, but often no major aftercare beyond this is required. Patients may find it advisable, however, to stay away from spicy, greasy, chewy, or sticky foods for the first few days in the interests of avoiding pain. It is also advisable to refrain from acrobatic exercises with the tongue in the first few days, to avoid reopening the incision.