Lip & Tongue-tie Glossary

One of the many hurdles patients have to jump over when it comes to understanding their own or their child’s tongue-tie concerns is the language. Dr. Prather is passionate about helping patients fully understand their concerns and feel complete confidence in making decisions for their ongoing care. Feel free to explore our glossary of common terms below.


The most commonly used term for a condition that occurs when the soft tissue (frenum) connecting the lips, tongue, or cheeks to the hard tissues of the mouth are too short, hard, or inflexible. When this occurs, ordinary movement while chewing, speaking, smiling, and performing other routine tasks is impeded. Tongue-tie may also specifically refer to concerns directly related to the connective tissue between the tongue and the bottom of the mouth.


Like tongue-tie, lip-tie is often used to refer to any of a group of soft tissue connectivity issues. However, this term can also speak specifically to concern with tissue connecting the upper or lower lip to the mouth being too tight or otherwise intrusive.


Often, both terms are used together to signify the entire group of health issues surrounding excessive and overly tight oral tissues.


Used less often, this term describes the condition of too tight, short, hard, or inflexible connective tissue on the sides of the mouth connecting the cheeks to skull bones and jaw.


This is the medical term for tongue tie.


This is an acronym adopted by many practitioners as an umbrella term for lip, tongue, and buccal-ties. Tethered oral tissues is a much more descriptive and accessible phrase for patients to discuss. In most cases, TOTS is only used when discussing these oral health concerns in infants and young children.


The connective tissue that holds oral soft tissue in place against the jaw and skull bones. These tissues are created during fetal development, and in most cases, the growing baby’s frena gradually reduce in size, a process known as apoptosis allowing for necessary mouth movement prior to birth. However, some infants are born with these tissues enlarged, hardened, or immobile. Which may lead to the removal of some frenum tissue. You may see the word written as either frenum or frenulum. Both are technically correct, which can be a little confusing. However, the plural form is likely to be more confusing, since there are three acceptable plural forms: frenulums, frenula, and frena. All of these varied spellings and plural forms refer to the same tissue.


Like the tissue itself, the procedure to reduce the connective tissues and allow for freer movement of the lips, tongue, and mouth is known by many names. You may see frenectomy, frenotomy, or frenulectomy used interchangeably. All three refer to procedures that release the soft tissue from the harder bone tissues. This can be performed using a number of different techniques, but most often, dentists or pediatricians will perform a frenectomy using surgical scissors, lasers, or a combination of the two.

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