What is “tongue-tie”?

Tongue-tie is referring to the band of tissue that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth. If tongue-tie is being discussed in relation to infant feeding, it is likely that the tissue is suspected to be limiting the movement of the tongue and causing breastfeeding/chestfeeding problems.

Sometimes a tongue-tie looks like a very obvious string-like tissue under the tongue. Usually, these are simple to identify the PRESENCE of the tissue, however, it takes a skilled practitioner to identify if the tongue-tie is affecting the FUNCTION of the tongue. Some infants may have a very obvious tongue-tie, but have no problem with function and can breastfeed effectively. Other infants may not have a very prominent tie (one that can easily be missed by doctors, nurses, other practitioners who are not specially trained), however the function of the tongue can be greatly affected and can cause significant feeding problems.

My baby has a tongue-tie, but they can stick their tongue out. Does that mean it’s okay?

Practitioners skilled in tongue-tie will talk about the APPEARANCE versus FUNCTION of a tongue-tie. A functional tongue needs many different movements: stick out, tip lifts up, middle lifts up, edges curl, side to side motion, etc.. A problem with any one of these functions can cause feeding problems. If it is suggested that the tongue is fully functional because it can stick out, but you are still having breastfeeding problems, you may want to consider a second opinion.

Why am I getting mixed information about whether my baby has a tongue-tie?

The simple version is that there is no universally agreed upon diagnostic criteria for tongue-tie. It remains a controversial and complex issue in the infant feeding world. Go back to APPEARANCE versus FUNCTION. If you are having persistent feeding problems that don’t seem to be improving, the function of the tongue should be fully assessed, even if you have been told "it looks okay."

Where do I go for assessment and/or treatment of my baby’s tongue-tie?

There is a range of options for treatment in Edmonton, from cost: $0-$400, type: scissor vs. laser, practitioner: medical doctor vs. dentist, wait-time: 1 week to 4-6weeks, and lactation support: none at all to very knowledgeable and helpful. It is important to explore the options to make the best decision for your family.

Willow Family Medicine

  • Covered by Alberta Health Care
  • Comprehensive assessment prior to determining method of treatment
  • IBCLC lactation support included in visit
  • Revision done by physician/IBCLC
  • Scissor technique
  • Some wait time due to high demand, however offer cancellation spots

Synergy Breastfeeding Clinic (Erica Kalke)

  • $125-$175 (potential for reimbursement by extended benefit plans)
  • 2-3 week wait times
  • Self-referral
  • Revision done by Nurse Practitioner/IBCLC
  • Breastfeeding support
  • Scissor technique

Dentists (Dr. Varughese, Dr. Boldt)

  • $300-$400 (inquire about coverage under your dental plan)
  • Self-referral
  • Laser technique
  • No lactation support

Because of the limited access to Alberta Health Care covered tongue tie clinics in Edmonton, some families choose to access publicly funded clinics in Calgary as they may have shorter wait times. Calgary options: Well Fed Clinic, Dr. S. Lamond, Circle Medical

Various pediatricians may offer scissor revision in their office. Ask your pediatrician.

For a more detailed summary of tongue-tie, click here.

For other articles, including peer-reviewed articles on tongue-tie, click here.

Facebook Group: Alberta Tongue & Lip Tie Support

**If your baby is having a tongue-tie revision done by a practitioner who does not offer further breastfeeding/chestfeeding support, it is highly recommended to obtain your own lactation support.