Ankyloglossia: facts and myths in diagnosis and treatment

J Periodontol. 2009 Aug;80(8):1204-19. doi: 10.1902/jop.2009.090086.


Background: The objective of this study was to systematically review the diagnostic criteria, indications, and need for treatment of ankyloglossia (tongue-tie), as well as the various treatment options for patients in different age groups.

Methods: The MEDLINE databases and the Cochrane Library were searched according to well-defined criteria, resulting in 64 included articles. The evidence regarding the classifications of tongue-tie, epidemiologic data, inheritance, breastfeeding problems, impaired tongue mobility, speech disorders, malocclusion, gingival recessions, therapy, and complications due to surgery was analyzed in detail.

Results: Different classifications for ankyloglossia have been proposed but not uniformly accepted. Breastfeeding problems in neonates could be associated with a tongue-tie, but not enough controlled trials have been performed to identify an ideal treatment option. In children and adults with ankyloglossia, limitations in tongue mobility are present, but the individual degree of discomfort, as well as the severity of an associated speech problem, are subjective and difficult to categorize. There is no evidence supporting the development of gingival recessions because of ankyloglossia. Frenotomy, frenectomy, and frenuloplasty are the main surgical treatment options to release/remove an ankyloglossia. Because of the limited evidence available, no specific surgical method can be favored.

Conclusions: The lack of an accepted definition and classification of ankyloglossia makes comparisons between studies almost impossible. Because almost no controlled prospective trials for surgical interventions in patients with tongue-ties are present in the literature, no conclusive suggestions regarding the method of choice can be made. It also remains controversial which tongue-ties need to be surgically removed and which can be left to observation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding
  • Child
  • Gingival Recession / etiology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lingual Frenum / abnormalities*
  • Lingual Frenum / surgery
  • Malocclusion / etiology
  • Speech Disorders / etiology
  • Tongue / physiopathology
  • Tongue Diseases / congenital
  • Tongue Diseases / physiopathology
  • Tongue Diseases / surgery