Tongue Problems

  • Medical Author:
    Donna S. Bautista, DDS

    Dr. Donna S. Bautista, DDS, completed her undergraduate studies at the University of California, San Diego with a bachelor of arts in biochemistry and cell biology. During her time at UC San Diego, she was involved in basic research including studying processes related to DNA transcription in the field of molecular biology. Upon graduation, she went on to attend dental school at the University of California, San Francisco. In addition to her formal dental training, she provided dental care for underserved communities in the Bay Area through clinics and health fairs. She also worked toward mentoring high school students interested in the field of dentistry.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Dental Health: Top Problems in Your Mouth

Problems with tongue movement

Tongue movement problems are often caused by nerve damage (for example, post-stroke or post-surgery nerve damage). Limited tongue mobility can greatly affect our eating, swallowing, and speech. Depending on the extent of nerve damage, sometimes physical therapy may help in regaining control of the tongue.

Ankyloglossia, also known as "tongue-tie," is a less common condition where a band of tissue that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth is too short or tight and impedes tongue movement. Because the tongue is vital for sucking, infants with ankyloglossia may be unable to breastfeed properly. For toddlers and older children, sometimes the tongue is able to compensate for most oral functions, but speech may be affected. The treatment for ankyloglossia is a surgical procedure (frenulectomy) that relaxes the tight band of tissue that is restricting the tongue's movements.

What are tongue problems in infants and children?

The most common tongue problem found amongst infants and young children is oral thrush characterized by white patches on the tongue. It often occurs after a course of antibiotics is taken by the infant or breastfeeding mother. "Good bacteria" is killed off allowing for an overgrowth of yeast. Treatment involves antifungal medications for the infant and, if breastfed, the mother to avoid passing the infection back and forth.

Other common tongue problems found in children are:

  • fissured tongue,
  • tongue,
  • traumatic injury, and
  • aphthous ulcers (canker sores).
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/18/2015

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