© 2009 Roy Benaroch, MD
Kelly has a six-year-old son who has tongue-tie, but there are “…no speech problems, no eating problems…he just can’t stick his tongue out and taking temp under tongue is a challenge. Our ENT is recommending to clip. This requires general anesthesia.”
This is one of those questions that could get you some different answers… but since you posted it to my blog, you’re stuck with my response!
Tongue-tie means that the little flap of tissue under the tongue (the “frenulum”) is kind of short, so the tongue can’t lift off the floor of the mouth easily. The doctor-word for this (God forbid we talk like normal people) is “ankyloglossia”. Most of the time, the tongue also can’t extend far past the gums or out of the mouth. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen exact data on how far out a tongue should stick out, but most people can easily poke their tongues at least past their lips, so that’s probably “normal.”
In the good old days, if a tongue was perceived as “tied”, the pediatrician would take a little scissors and snippity-snip right there in the newborn nursery, packing some gauze under the tongue. Simple, I guess. But is it necessary?
Most of us feel that tongues come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and stick-out-ability. Rather than fixate on what the tongue looks like, I think a more reasonable way to look at it is just how the tongue-tie affects the child. If it’s a newborn who genuinely can’t nurse well
or a child with a speech problem, that probably should be repaired. But I don’t see the need to fix a tongue just because it can’t be stuck out very far. Maybe it’s better for children to find other ways to express themselves!