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Tongue Reduction Surgery: What Patients Need to Know

Tongue reduction surgery might sound a bit strange, but there are certain patients who benefit tremendously from tongue reduction surgery. While some youngsters are born with tongue obstructions that result in breathing issues, many adults develop this condition that experts agree is related to sleep apnea. Let’s discuss tongue reduction surgery and how it assists with these all too common concerns.

What is the Purpose of Tongue Surgery?

Oral surgeons can determine if tongue surgery is a good solution for your situation. Procedures exist to make the tongue firmer during sleep (tongue advancement) as well as surgeries to remove tongue tissue to decrease its overall volume. These surgeries aim to allow the tongue to relax in effort to permit better breathing—especially at night when lying down.

Conditions Tongue Surgery Can Alleviate

Some adults and occasionally, children, develop an oversized tongue known as macroglossia. This condition can cause problems with breathing, speech, feeding, drooling and can affect the positioning of the teeth and jaw, resulting in altered facial appearance. Reduction of the tongue can assist in overcoming any complications that result from an oversized tongue.

Asia baby show tongueOne of the most common conditions that a tongue reduction might be recommended by an oral surgeon is to correct or alleviate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Patients with this condition literally stop breathing for brief periods during sleep, typically as a result of obstructions in the airway.Tongue advancement or tongue reduction surgery may be an option for those who can’t or just don’t like using CPAP machines at night.

Types of Tongue Surgeries

A keyhole surgery may be an option to decrease the overall tongue mass.  This is completed by carefully removing excess tissue from the middle portion of the tongue, thus preserving the blood supply and nerves that control taste, feeling, and movement.  

Genioglossus advancement is more common for patients with severe sleep apnea. This procedure involves pulling the bony attachment of a portion of the tongue muscle forward and securing this bony attachment with screws in a new, more forward position. This makes the tongue collapse less while sleeping.

Tongue Surgery Post-Op Care

Your surgeon will give you a set of post-op instructions to help you care for your mouth and health after the surgery. Primary issues you will be dealing with and changes to make will include:

Pain—Pain is natural after any type of surgery and tongue reduction is not different. Patients will receive appropriate guidance regarding the specifics of pain control dependent on what particular surgery they require.  Pain and swelling may persist up to two weeks after this surgery leading to temporary changes in speech and eating habits.  

Dietary Changes—A soft food and liquid diet is advised for a few days post-op due to swallowing difficulties while healing. Avoid hard or dry foods that can result in discomfort and bleeding.

Stay Quiet and Rested—For a few weeks, avoid strenuous activities that could increase the risk of developing blood clots, swelling or bleeding.

Bleeding—While minor bleeding episodes after tongue surgery is normal, any signs of excessive incidences require immediate medical care. Please contact your oral surgeon immediately with any concerns.

Considering Tongue Surgery for Yourself or a Family Member??

These procedures should only be handled by an experienced and board certified oral surgeons. If you would like a consultation concerning whether tongue surgery is right for you, contact us at Northwest Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery in Texas at to find a location near you today.


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