Should I untie my tongue?
February 8, 2012 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Tell me about your experience with surgery to correct a tongue tie. Is it no big deal or am I better off leaving well enough alone?

I have a tongue tie, aka ankyloglossia. My tongue is pretty similar to the person in the Wiki page picture, or perhaps a little bit worse. It doesn't significantly interfere with my life, but it does ache sometimes, and I do have occasional speech problems--I stumble when I try to speak too fast. I am also a bad kisser.

I've been thinking about having surgery to correct the tie for years, but the idea also freaks me out. I would really like to hear from someone who has had this done, or even knows someone who has.

Any fellow adult ankyloglossics on AskMe? Did you have surgery as an adult, or if not, is there a specific reason why you decided not to? I'm planning to talk to my doctor about this next month, so I'm not looking for medical advice, just anecdotes about what the surgery and recovery are like, what post-op pain is like if it happens, and whether it's overall considered worthwhile by people who have had it done.
posted by snorkmaiden to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
All I know is when babies get it done, it's usually not a big deal. My friend's toddler had it done last month and it was day surgery and he seemed to be fine the next day. I'm not sure if he even had any stitches.
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:05 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not an adult experience, by any stretch, but my nephew recently had it done in the first few weeks after he was born. My sister said it was essentially like a snip with a nail clipper and it was over. No stitches or issues healing. The little guy was eating like a champ within a few minutes and spent the next few days very cutely sticking his newly mobile tongue out whenever he got the chance. He did not at any point seem to have any pain.
posted by goggie at 9:44 AM on February 8, 2012

A friend of mine in college had it done. She said it was not bad at all and was happy to have had it done.
posted by The World Famous at 9:51 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had mine done when I was nine or ten. It was probably a 20-minute thing done under local anesthetic. Under normal circumstances it would have been mildly unpleasant in the way that going to the dentist is, when you have to open your mouth wide and leave it like that for a while. The doctor didn't use enough anesthetic on me and it hurt like the dickens, though. I don't think it hurt for longer than 2-3 days; I remember eating a lot of popsicles.
posted by Jeanne at 10:12 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Look for a dentist with a laser to do this. it might require a smidge of topical anesthetic (numbing gel) but it takes little time and produces little discomfort other than a few days of healing.
I do three or four a year, mostly on teenagers and not one has reported it be unpleasant during or after.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:53 AM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I had a friend who did it when she had her wisdom teeth out. It was WAY worse than the wisdom teeth, honestly. It made it impossible to talk and took months to heal. She was in 11th grade at the time, I think. But she may have had complications that my teenage brain didn't understand.

She also didn't want it done in the first place, but the dentist just "threw it in as a bonus" once she was under. That's pretty creepy, now that I think about it.
posted by guster4lovers at 11:11 AM on February 8, 2012

I had mine fixed as a child and it was totally non-traumatic for me. My dad went along to have his done at the same time, for moral support I guess. As I recall, my dad had to get stitches and more/different anaesthetic and was pretty miserable for at least a day or two afterward. That was like 23 years ago, though.

I'm happy that I can lick ice cream cones now. And stick my tongue out as necessary. :P
posted by beandip at 11:17 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

My cousin's youngest (5 months old at the time) had hers done a few months ago & I went along for moral support -- it was ZERO problem for her (the baby), & no anesthetic. She didn't even cry. (My cousin (the mom) did, though!) The doctor who did it said that obviously they anesthetize older patients who require the procedure, but that the hassle isn't so much having it done, but that older patients generally require a bit of speech therapy afterwards (depending on the extent of the tongue tie to begin with, I guess). My cousin is thinking about having her 6-year-old's corrected but is concerned about the speech therapy issue & his isn't all that severe, so they'll probably let him decide whether he wants it done once he's older.
posted by oh really at 11:50 AM on February 8, 2012

Best answer: I'm 38 now; I had this surgery about 10 years ago. My reasons for doing so: I was unable to clean the back of my teeth/mouth well after meals (brushing later was fine, but sometimes there's like _meat_ back there), I couldn't lick an ice cream cone without looking like a messy-faced toddler immediately after, and I figured my kissing-y stuff would improve. I didn't have any speech issues that I was aware of.

Overall, I'd say the surgery was a disappointment. I think I had unrealistic expectations of turning into Gene Simmons afterward. And I _still_ can't reach the back of my mouth without serious effort. I know my tongue was tied before, but I still thought I'd be able to stick it out a _bit_ more without it looking like a stump stuck at my lips.

But the worst part was the weeks-long post-op pain. What I never realized prior to the surgery was how much your tongue moves when you are sitting still. You don't notice it in regular life, but most of the time, your tongue is very subtly going to town in there. And when every slight movement is tearing at a sliced undertongue area, ouch. Way worse than my adult wisdom teeth removal, that's for sure.
posted by tegoo at 11:53 AM on February 8, 2012

It's different for babies than it is for adults, so don't read too much into baby stories about it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:32 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks young rope rider, I know it's very different for babies than adults. Appreciate this heads-up, though.

It sounds like there's a lot of variation, which is kind of what I was afraid of... teego, did your pain last only a few weeks or is it something that still bothers you? This is what I'm most concerned about. I think I can suck it up for a few weeks but I know I would really regret it if I had permanent twinges or anything like that.

And by the way, oh really, if your cousin is interested in the point of view of an adult dealing with this issue: get it done now! My parents chose to leave this for me to decide about when I was older, and it has been weighing on my mind and bothering me for years. I am over-worried about it and I don't know if this will even fix some of the problems I have (and god, it would have been nice to be able to properly kiss as a teen...). I would love, love, love if my parents had had this done when I was six. I probably wouldn't even remember it. If only!
posted by snorkmaiden at 12:43 PM on February 8, 2012

I had it done a few years ago. It was the most painful dental procedure (in terms of recovery, I felt nothing at the time) I have ever experienced, but the pain only lasted a week or so. I can touch my tongue to the roof of my mouth now, but I can't stick my tongue out any more than I could before. I don't regret it though.
posted by Ruki at 3:25 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had this done about ten years ago; I'm thirty now. I had it done during wisdom teeth removal, and honestly kinda forgot I had it done until your question---meaning for me, at least, the recovery wasn't memorably horrific at all. But, I think my...oral surgeon?...was pretty modest with how deeply he cut; there's still more he could have nipped but I think the fact that he didn't probably contributed to the positive recovery I experienced.

I agree that it wasn't as drastic an improvement as I was imagining, but it also wasn't as traumatic as I thought it might be (now getting my tonsils removed as an adult, that's another story). I think for me the biggest thing was the confidence that came with having it done; not feeling like a weirdo when kissing dates for the first time, not having to deal with insensitive nurses at doctor's offices trying to do strep cultures, and so on. It still only sticks out a modest amount compared with other people, but I'm really glad I did it, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
posted by stellaluna at 4:17 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you go to an ENT instead of a dentist, they will be able to give you the maximum range of motion. A dentist will only cut the thin membrane whereas an ENT will be able to go back a little farther (which will, of course, mean stitches).

My boy was very tongue tied and we did his at 3 days old, but it is still not enough ROM for proper word formation. I have discussed (at great length) with his ENT the pros and cons of cutting further and we have decided to go ahead at the end of this year (he'll be 2 1/2).

I guess what I mean to say is that there's a little snip procedure and then there's a more in depth procedure which can be done in some cases. See a couple of ENTs and gather as much info as you can before you do it.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:52 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, like Ruki, the pain was relatively short-lived. It may have only been a week, but the intensity has me remembering it like it was a month. Once it healed, it's _never_ hurt since. It's all about those stitches and the constant pulling at them until the wound heals itself.
posted by tegoo at 11:45 AM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I got mine done at an ENT when I was 19. Several stitches. It hurt a little for about two weeks, but not nearly as much as other jaw surgeries I've had. I didn't take any prescription painkillers. It hasn't bothered me at all since and the benefits are fantastic.
posted by skyl1n3 at 7:37 PM on February 9, 2012

Response by poster: To update, I had my tongue-tie cut by a periodontist about 2 weeks ago. The first week was indeed very painful, and I was glad that I had the full week off work to recover. I didn't take any prescription pain medication, but if I were going to do it over again I would ask for it. I think I probably had about 4-6 stitches.

I would say that the first 3-5 days were very painful, and that my speech was affected for about another 5 days. Eating was tough until I went back for a one-week follow-up, and the assistant pulled out the pieces of dissolvable stitch that were left. Now, at the two week point, it doesn't hurt and my speech has returned to normal. So far I'm very pleased! My tongue is still somewhat fixed to the bottom of my mouth, but I'm able to touch many more teeth with it and stick it out a little bit farther.

Totally not as bad as I was scared it would be, though. I really appreciate the advice here, it helped me to go for it and finally get this done!
posted by snorkmaiden at 11:11 AM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the update, glad it all worked out.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:00 PM on June 4, 2012

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