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Q&A:
Should my baby have an anesthetic when his tongue is "clipped"?

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Question


My youngest son is 6 months old and tongue-tied. My pediatrician has decided to "clip" it at our next appointment. However, they are not going to numb it at all. To me this seems dreadful. Any comments? Is that area of the tongue not as sensitive as the rest?

Answer


Babies are like the rest of the human race in that they feel pain just like everyone else. The mouth is a very sensitive place, so of course such a procedure will hurt. There are many topical agents that can be put on the frenulum, the tether that's being clipped, to numb the area. I'd insist on it if the procedure needs to be done at all at this point. Newborns who are "tongue-tied" have a hard time nursing if they cannot get the tongue over the gum; these babies need it clipped right away to be able to nurse. The next hurdle is when a child is in the middle of the second year and has to really handle solid food with rotary motion. The tongue needs to get up to the palate so those peanut butter sandwiches and similar foods don't get stuck. You don't know if that will be a problem until you get there, as some stretching occurs over time. Finally, you might need a clip if you are 3 and need to say "three." The "th" is hard to say without the tongue free to go over the teeth. Your son isn't at any of these junctures at 6 months, so it's hard to tell what the problem to be remedied is at this time. -- Suzanne Dixon, M.D., M.P.H., with Lori Clifton, pediatric speech pathologist  
 
 
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