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Tongue Tie
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 Frequently Asked Questions

Q: My 18 month old daughter has a tongue-tie. She says simple words like mama, mummy, papa… clearly. She does not say alphabets like F, L, S, R. Does she need to be operated upon? What is the right age to operate?

Sonia (Philadelphia, India)

A: Your child is 18 months old and is still at the development stage. Children are known to have a number of sound defects at this age, which they eventually outgrow. It is important that your child has a good role model who she can imitate with regard to speech. You should make sure that your daughter can make the range of movements with her tongue such as protruding her tongue beyond the lower-lip and elevating her tongue to touch the upper lip with her mouth half open. You could make her either imitate you or put some sticky chocolate (or something that she likes) on both the upper lip and the lower lip. She may then try to lick it with her tongue as a natural reflex. If she can do this, the likelihood of the child experiencing speech difficulty is minimized. This will also help you know whether she needs any intervention. In case of difficulty, it would be advisable to consult a specialist in person.

Mrs. Maya Sanghi – Speech Path

Q: Is it necessary to perform surgery on a tongue tie? My baby is just 6 months old.

Feroza (Mumbai, India)

A: You mentioned that your baby is only 6 months old. We would like to know how you have reached the diagnosis of tongue-tie. If tongue-tie is affecting the child's eating and sucking ability then you must seek professional help immediately. If not, then from my point of view, the decision regarding surgery should be made only when the child develops a certain amount of speech and language. I would therefore advise you to wait until the child begins articulating words and phrases before deciding on surgery. Please refer to my article on the website on tongue tie to help you further determine whether the child has tongue-tie or not.

Mrs. Sanghi, Speech and Langua

Q: My child has a tongue tie. One doctor says that snipping is required to correct any future speech related problem and the surgery shall be done under general anaesthesia. Another doctor however says that no intervention is required and paediatric anaesthesia can have some adverse consequences. We are also unsure about general anaesthesia being administered to such a young child. The doctor rules out sedation. We are very confused. Can a tongue tied baby lead a normal life? Is surgery unavoidable? Can the surgery be performed later in life?

Ushma (Mumbai, India)

A: The simplest answer to your question is to observe the tongue when fully stretched out of the mouth. If on stretching you find a notch at the tip of the tongue, then it may require surgery. If it is a true tongue tie then some words which require the tongue to touch the roof of the mouth like"Taa","Daa" may be difficult to pronounce. Hence if there is a need for surgery, it should be done before the child learns to speak (at the age of 1-1.5 years).

Dr. Subba Rao

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