Defining the anatomy of the neonatal lingual frenulum

Nikki Mills, Natalie Keough, Donna T. Geddes, Seth M. Pransky, S. Ali Mirjalili

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The lingual frenulum is recognized as having the potential to limit tongue mobility, which may lead to difficulties with breastfeeding in some infants. There is extensive variation between individuals in the appearance of the lingual frenulum but an ambiguous relationship between frenulum appearance and functional limitation. An increasing number of infants are being diagnosed with ankyloglossia, with growing uncertainty regarding what can be considered “normal” lingual frenulum anatomy. In this study, microdissection of four fresh tissue premature infant cadavers shows that the lingual frenulum is a dynamic, layered structure formed by oral mucosa and the underlying floor of mouth fascia, which is mobilized into a midline fold with tongue elevation and/or retraction. Genioglossus is suspended from the floor of mouth fascia, and in some individuals can be drawn up into the fold of the frenulum. Branches of the lingual nerve are located superficially on the ventral surface of the tongue, immediately beneath the fascia, making them vulnerable to injury during frenotomy procedures. This research challenges the longstanding belief that the lingual frenulum is a midline structure formed by a submucosal “band” or “string” and confirms that the neonatal lingual frenulum structure replicates that recently described in the adult. This article provides an anatomical construct for understanding and describing variability in lingual frenulum morphology and lays the foundation for future research to assess the impact of specific anatomic variants of lingual frenulum morphology on tongue mobility. Clin. Anat. 32:824–835, 2019.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)824-835
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Anatomy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • ankyloglossia
  • fascia
  • floor of mouth
  • frenotomy
  • lingual frenulum
  • neonatal
  • neonate
  • surgery
  • tongue tie


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