Can Tongue Tie Grow Back?

A dentist wearing gloves uses a dental instrument to examine a child's open mouth.

Tongue tie, or ankyloglossia, is a condition where the lingual frenulum is unusually short, thick, or tight. The lingual frenulum is the thin band of tissue connecting the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth, so when it is malformed, it restricts the tongue’s range of motion. This condition can affect eating, speaking, and oral hygiene. 

Treatment typically involves a minor surgery to release the tongue and improve mobility. However, if you or a loved one has had this surgery, you may be wondering about the chances of it growing back.

Factors Affecting Tongue Tie and Its Treatment

Tongue tie varies in severity and can be classified based on the location and tightness of the frenulum. The further the tongue tie is to the front of the tongue, and the thicker or shorter it is, the more it restricts movement. In mild cases, the tongue’s range of motion might be minimally affected, whereas in severe cases, the tongue may be almost completely tethered to the mouth floor.

Surgical Solutions

A frenotomy is a simple procedure, often performed in infants, and involves a small snip to release the frenulum. It is quick and often performed without anesthesia, with minimal bleeding and recovery time. It is performed by a dentist or other healthcare provider.

A frenuloplasty is a more complex surgical procedure that is generally only done for older children or adults or in cases where the frenulum is particularly thick. It involves cutting and repositioning the frenulum, often with sutures, and is performed under local or general anesthesia.

Recurrence of Tongue Tie

While a tongue tie doesn’t actually grow back, as the frenulum does not regrow, scar tissue may form or the remaining tissue may reattach, causing a return of a restriction of the tongue’s movement. It is estimated that 4% of frenetomies experience a recurrence of tongue tie issues, or reattachment.

Factors Influencing Recurrence

Several factors contribute to the potential for recurrence of tongue tie. The good news is that taking good care of the wound site afterwards, and following the dentist’s or other health provider’s instructions for exercises and follow-up visits reduce the risks of reattachment.

Age at Surgery

Younger patients, especially babies, have a lower risk of recurrence. However, improper healing or lack of proper post-operative care can lead to reattachment.

Severity of Initial Condition

More severe tongue ties are at higher risk of recurrence.

Compliance With Recommended Post-Operative Care

Appropriate post-operative care is critical to help prevent reattachment. Following the surgical release, the wound is prone to healing and reattaching, so proper wound management and carefully following recommendations for tongue exercises is important.

This helps prevent the tissue from healing together again, or scar tissue from forming in a restrictive manner. Stretching exercises as recommended ensures the tongue retains mobility and flexibility as it heals.

Whether the surgery was completed on you or a child or baby in your care, you will be given instructions on how to properly care for the wound. 

A newborn baby lies on a blanket while an adult hand gently touches its chin. The baby looks up with an open mouth and wide eyes.

Frenetomy Aftercare 

Wound Care

Keeping the wound clean to prevent infection and reduce inflammation is crucial. This usually includes gentle cleaning and possibly using antiseptic solutions.

Stretching Exercises

These exercises are aimed at maintaining the mobility of the tongue and prevent the frenulum from tightening as it heals. They may include movements such as lifting the tongue towards the roof of the mouth, side-to-side motions, and sticking the tongue out. Parents can ensure a baby is doing these movements, by gently performing prescribed tongue exercises, such as lifting the baby’s tongue towards the roof of the mouth and moving it side-to-side. 

Consistency is essential. Doing these exercises several times daily is most effective to help prevent reattachment, encourage mobility, and ensure proper healing.

A young girl with braided hair sits in a dental chair, holding a stuffed bunny. Dental instruments and gloves are laid out on a tray beside her.

Follow-Up Visits

Regular follow-up appointments with your dentist ensure the wound is healing properly and that no significant reattachment has occurred. This allows for any adjustments to care to be made in time if early signs of recurrence are detected.

While a tongue tie does not grow back, there is a risk of recurrence through reattachment or scar tissue formation. However, with proper surgical techniques and diligent post-operative care  – including following all of your instructions and recommendations for wound care and exercises, you can reduce these risks. Your compliance, whether the surgery was completed on you or a child in your care, helps ensure a successful long-term outcome following tongue tie surgery.

If you or your child is having difficulties with eating, speaking, or otherwise suspect a tongue tie because of tongue mobility restrictions, the team at Century Stone Dental can help. We check for such concerns during our regular checkups, as well. We can perform a frenetomy, and will guide you through the proper aftercare to help avoid postoperative concerns.

Dr Christopher Sims
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