The underside of your tongue isn't something that you would normally think about if everything is functioning as it should. But just imagine if one morning, as you're eating breakfast, you discover that these folds underneath your tongue are painfully irritated. You may also notice that saliva is pooling in the area. Immediately, you would be concerned about what might be going on. These small folds are called the plica fimbriata, and they are just one of the many structures that make up the tongue and salivary glands.
Structures Under the Tongue
As the ENT Atlas explains, the plica fimbriata is an elevated crest of mucous membrane on the underside of your tongue. Here's a quick anatomy lesson to help you understand the exact location of these folds in your mouth.
Below your tongue is a horseshoe-shaped area of tissue known as the floor of the mouth. This flat area of soft tissue has a separate rising fold of tissue that connects it to the underside of the tongue, known as the lingual frenulum. The plica fimbriata consists of two raised folds that are located on both sides of where the lingual frenulum connects to the tongue, as seen in an illustration from StatPearls.
Plica Fimbriata and Your Salivary System
As a presentation from Semmelweis University outlines, the plica fimbriata is part of the salivary gland system in your mouth. The saliva that is produced near the floor of the mouth comes through the salivary glands and drains under the tongue through the sublingual and submandibular ducts. The plica fimbriata is one location where these ducts open to release saliva in the mouth.
Common Salivary Gland and Duct Issues
The salivary gland and duct system under your tongue can be disturbed by various oral health problems. If a salivary gland gets blocked by a calcified formation, also known as a salivary stone, the area can become painful and swollen, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. The stones — also called sialolithiasis — occur in the submandibular gland about 80% of the time.
If you think that you have a salivary stone, you should seek immediate care from your physician or dental professional. Sialolithiasis can be diagnosed with an ultrasound or a computerized tomography scan. Oftentimes, applying moist heat and massaging the salivary gland can help to relieve this condition. Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, can also help to reduce the swelling and pain associated with salivary stones.
If these first-line measures do not alleviate the condition, you may require surgery. As the Cleveland Clinic explains, if the stone is located near the surface, your doctor or dentist may be able to remove it in a quick in-office procedure. This would involve using local anesthesia and making a small incision to the area. If the stone is deep in the tissue, your doctor would possibly need to use a technique called salivary sialendoscopy. This involves using a tiny scope to visualize the duct while using a special tool to retrieve the stone. In most cases, patients recover well with no further issues.
Now that you know more about the structures underneath your tongue, you can feel empowered to discuss any issues that develop in this area with your dental professional.