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A large number of people will be born with tongue malformations that may seem pretty scary at first. The thing to remember about these conditions is that most of them are manageable without any real problem while others are completely treatable. Some tongue conditions may also be part of a genetic syndrome and will be associated with other symptoms that need to be attended to.
What are the most common tongue malformations, and what do you need to know about them?
Tongue Tie Or Ankyloglossia
If you raise your tongue, then you will notice a thin strip of tissue that is connecting the tongue to the floor of the mouth. In people who are suffering from tongue tie, this cord is connected towards the front of the tongue, preventing free movement. The result is a difficulty in talking and the development of speech defects that can sometimes take a long time to correct. Since the speech defect is the most obvious symptom of tongue tie, most children who have tongue tie are only diagnosed around the age when they start speaking.
The treatment for tongue tie includes a small surgical procedure called a frenectomy, in which this band of tissue is removed and the tongue is allowed to move freely. The next phase of the treatment will require speech therapy so that the tongue can be "retrained" into making the proper sounds.
Another common developmental disorder that is seen is macroglossia, or a tongue that is larger than normal. Macroglossia can be associated with some syndromes like Down’s syndrome or it may occur individually on its own.
As the name suggests, the tongue is significantly larger than normal and this leads to a number of related problems. The tongue is actually one of the strongest muscles in our body and it constantly applies pressure to the teeth. This pressure is equalized by the cheeks under a normal situation, however in patients who have macroglossia, this equalization does not happen.
As a result, the teeth of the lower arch start to protrude outwards, spacing between the teeth appears, there is an inability to close the mouth completely, the lips may become incompetent, teeth are much more prone to develop periodontal disease and the teeth of the upper arch are also affected in a similar manner.
Apart from the dental problems, people who have macroglossia are also likely to suffer from mouth breathing and sleep apnea.
The treatment for this condition is a lot more complicated than something like tongue tie for example. A surgical procedure to remove the size of the tongue needs to be undertaken. The tongue sees some of the most vital structures in the oral cavity pass through it and so this procedure is very technically demanding. People may experience a loss of sensation and an alteration in taste after the procedure has been performed.
Orthodontic treatment to bring the teeth back into the normal position will be needed, which may or may not include a surgical component.