Q:

What is the thing under your tongue called?

A:

The structure located beneath the tongue is called the frenulum or lingual frenulum. This thin membrane or band of tissue is oriented vertically to connect the tongue to the bottom of the mouth.

The tongue is essential for speaking, chewing, swallowing and tasting. The top of the tongue is rough due to the small bumpy protrusions called papillae, which help grip food and move it around as a person chews. The papillae also contain the taste buds that allow a person to experience the sensations of salty, bitter, sweet and sour. People are born with approximately 10,000 taste buds, some of which die off as a person ages.

Ankyloglossia, or tongue tie, is a disorder in which the lingual frenulum limits the tongue’s range of motion because it is unusually short, tight or thick. A person with this condition may encounter difficulties when eating, speaking and swallowing and be unable to stick out his tongue. It is possible that the lingual frenulum relaxes or loosens up on its own over time. A frenotomy procedure is performed in simple cases. If the frenulum is too thick for a frenotomy or if the case is more complicated, the patient may require the more extensive frenuloplasty surgery.

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