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Children and Lip Biting After Anesthesia

July 21st, 2021

Certain dental procedures may require the use of anesthetics (freezing or dental freezing) to help induce the insensitivity to pain. Anesthetics cause a numbing sensation that can feel a bit strange, and it can take 2 – 3 hours to wear off. When it comes to children, a common response to the anesthetic and subsequent numbness can result in lip biting. This can also extend to cheek and tongue biting.

The purpose of this article is to provide some guidance for parents who have young children that are starting to visit the dentist regularly. If your child has bitten their lip, cheek, or tongue after the use of an anesthetic it is recommended you call your dentist for advice. It is not an emergency, but your dentist can examine the bitten area, reassure you that the area will heal and provide instructions for easing any pain and assisting in the healing process.

Children with sensory disorders are more likely to bite, chew or suck as they may be drawn to the resulting sensation. But the fact is this biting response can result in injured tissues in the area where the biting occurred. There may be swelling which can worsen for up to 5 days. A soft scab may form and will appear yellowish or whitish as it begins to heal. The area can look sore and it can be quite painful for the child.

To encourage a child not to injure the numbed areas try the following:

  • Explain that the anaesthetic has put their lip (and, maybe other parts of their mouth) to sleep. As a result of this, if they pinch or bite the affected part of the mouth, they won’t be able to feel it but to do so could cause some painful damage. Additionally, reassure the child that you will be monitoring them closely to make sure they do not bite, pinch, scratch or suck on the lip, tongue, or cheek.
  • Also explain that the “sleeping” feeling will disappear in about 2 or 3 hours. As that happens, the child may notice a tingling sensation in the mouth, tongue and/or cheek areas. Again, remind the child to resist biting, pinching, or sucking on the lip, tongue, or cheek.
  • To avoid chewing and potential bites to the lips or cheek do not serve the child solid food. Instead, offer soft snacks like Jello, frozen yogurt, pudding, milkshakes, or smoothies.
  • In this era of mask wearing, have the child remove their mask after dental freezing. This will assist you in monitoring for any biting, sucking, or chewing.



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Posted in Children's Dentistry