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Tongue-Tied

Reflections on learning I have an annoying congenital disorder at 27.

rambling

Created on November 10, 2019. Last updated on November 15, 2019.

Recently, during a routine checkup with a new dentist, he asked me, "Did you know you have tongue-tie?"

I wasn't sure if I heard him right—I've had numerous dentists throughout my life and not a single one of them ever asked me that.

"Uh, what?"

He stopped thrusting the LED cleaning thingy into my mouth that looked suspiciously like a dildo.

"It's also known as ankyloglossia," he said, "it's associated with—"

"—Oh, God, am I dying?"

"NO, how many times are you going to ask me that? You're not dying, Reese. You just have an abnormally short frenulum connecting the floor of your mouth and tongue."

Immediately I whipped out my phone to look up "frenulum" on Google Images, but my dentist screamed "NOOOOOO," slapping me across the face in slow motion before I could press the enter button.

Okay, that last part was untruthful, but the point is, there are other parts of your body with these so-called frenulums, and you may not be prepared to see them.

Xenomorph

Photo via Wikimedia Commons. 20th Century Fox.
Can you spy a frenulum on this xenomorph?

"Like, is this a big deal?" I articulately asked.

"For adults with tongue-tie, probably not, it's really more of an inconvenience than anything. For children, it can greatly impact eating and speech."

"Well, that explains a lot." I said. "I needed speech therapy when I was a kid."

Not a joke. As a child I did indeed have a speech impediment. For example, I pronounced "banana" as "to-nana." My next major hurdle was learning how to spell, which possibly had to do with my inability to sound out words. I remember having an elderly tutor who dedicated hours of trial and error in teaching me how to spell, and we made no progress whatsoever. That is, until one morning when she said we'd try something different, and she spread shaving cream all over a desk. Immediately as I started spelling words into the cream with my finger, something clicked. My tutor was ecstatic—and no longer needed.

The tongue-tie might also shed light on why people have complained about my speaking voice all my life. It can be loud and forceful. I've always had issues whispering. Former bosses have commented that I am not great at modulating my voice. For me, speaking requires exertion, because it makes me feel like I'm performing gymnastics with my tongue, and apparently this is not normal. My wife has wondered for years why I enunciate my words to an almost unnecessary degree. I have reason to believe tongue-tie sucks.

Before I finished up with my appointment, my dentist commented that most children simply have the frenulum cut, which solves all of these problems, and others. As a 27-year old adult, I'm not sure if I require the same remedy, since I've lived with this for so long, but I'll think about it. What an annoying congenital disorder.