The early development of orofacial structural growth and muscle activity is vital. Muscles of the mouth and face are unique and very important as they play a role in growth and development of our dental and airway health. Muscle memory can keep the teeth and alignment during growth and development, as long as the muscles in the face have been trained to act in their optimal biological way. In fact, muscles and nerves in the tongue, cheeks and throat must work together in harmony in order for correct swallowing to occur. Without the proper relationship between the muscles of the face, mouth and throat various habits can develop early on that translate to behaviors later in life. An Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder (OMD) is when there is an abnormal lip, jaw, or tongue position during rest, swallowing or speech. These disorders of the muscles and functions of the face and mouth develop with insufficient habitual nasal breathing or mouth-breathing. Improper swallowing and improper rest posture of the tongue results in adaptation or compensation of the muscles and the orofacial functions to a disordered breathing pattern, creating various problems, like tongue thrusting, more swallowing abnormalities, and thumb or finger sucking. In addition, underdeveloped jaws and airways, improper alignment between the upper and lower teeth known as malocclusion, lead to difficulties in biting, chewing, swallowing, and digesting of food. Unfortunately, these all impact the optimal outcome of dental treatments in the orofacial area and can even affect the beauty of the face.
Myofunctional therapy is a program used to teach patients how to correct the improper function of the tongue and facial muscles. Treatment usually consists of a regular program of exercises over a 6-12 month period geared to retrain and strengthen the tongue and orofacial muscles by learning how to engage the muscles to the appropriate position. A Myofunctional therapist will assist and monitor your treatment to assure and the abnormal muscle patterns are corrected and the orofacial muscles are activated and functioning properly in order to facilitate proper nasal breathing. Proper tongue resting position and adequate tone create better habits for better health.
Myofunctional therapy may benefit those who suffer from a variety of ailments, including:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or heartburn
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain
- Neck pain
- Thumb sucking
- Nail biting
Myofunctional therapy can help in eating, speaking, breathing, and sleeping by training the soft tissue of the face, neck, and mouth to function at the height of their ability.
Myofunctional therapy is also efficient for adults. Typically the myofunctional disorders found in adults are a cause of late jaw growth, worsening malocclusion over time, or tooth loss.
Myofunctional therapy is non-invasive, inexpensive, does not pose any major risks, and may even be an alternative treatment for sleep apnea.