Myofunctional therapy is the series of physical activities of your tongue and orofacial (oral and facial) muscles to correct tongue thrust, mouth breathing, bite problems, swallowing and many more negative impacts that have been causing problems for a normal oral and facial look and function. Myofunctional therapy uses tongue exercises to retrain the muscles in your mouth and face to help you with a better resting tongue position, lip position and teeth occlusion.
Orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs) negative impacts
You may have developed some bad habits from your childhood that have impacted your teeth and appearance of your face. Thumb sucking, using pacifiers, bad tongue positions in your mouth like pushing the tongue against your front teeth will cause negative impacts on the normal tongue position in the long run and will change the shape and occlusion of your teeth.
You will see many gaps between the teeth with crooked and bad-looking shaped teeth.For example, bite problems which have caused the upper or lower teeth to be unfit and irregular either in forward or backward position are some extremely negative consequences of orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs) that require orthodontics treatment along with myofucntional therapy.
The result of these oral muscle abnormalities can go deeper and in your throat, where abnormal muscle activities due to these bad habits result in air blockage of airways spaces in nasal and oral cavities, which cause snoring and sleep apnea later in adulthood.
Who needs myofunctional therapy?
Mayofucntional therapy can treat people in different ages, but children are the most important groups of people that can benefit from these tongue exercises. The reason is exercises of myofunctional therapy help children in how to swallow correctly and put their tongue in its normal position or a good resting position.
So, damages to teeth are decreased and it is possible that they may break their bad habits of thumb sucking or tongue thrusting. The advantages of myofunctional therapy can help you with serious breathing problems caused by oral and facial muscle structures due to tongue position, mouth breathing and other orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs). The exercises practiced under myofunctional therapist will offer great treatment by opening the airways spaces to breathe comfortably.
Signs and symptoms of myofunctional disorders
Myofunctional therapy can be useful and recommended or can come as a necessary part of your orthodontics. Dentist, maxillofacial surgeons, and therapists can recognize any bad signs that should be addressed.
If you or your child has these signs and symptoms, you may require myofunctional therapy as your treatment:
- Tongue thrust
it is the abnormal forward tongue positioning, or pushing the tongue between front upper and lower teeth. If children do thrust their tongue frequently and even when they grow up, not only do they damage their teeth, but they will develop swallowing difficulties while eating. Myofunctional therapy is the most common treatment here. It will provide exercises which the child or even the adult knows that the tongue should be in the back position and down and not against or between the teeth.
- Thumb sucking or pacifier use
thumb sucking and using pacifier for longer periods and much frequency during childhood is associated with crooked, spaced and presence of bite problems like open bite in later ages. To break the habit and treat this problem, orthodontic devices or myofunctional therapy will come into play to get the normal position for the tongue and its resting position.
- Facial muscle pains and TMJ disorders
facial pains in the oral and facial region can be mild or it can be sign of TMJ disorders, which is extreme form of pains with constant and sudden pain feeling. These pains may have developed due to damages to nerves, soft tissues and joints in jaws and facial parts because of bad habits like grinding teeth, sleep disorders or other factors.
- Teeth grinding and bruxism
bruxism is the action of teeth grinding during sleep. It is usually the common way for children to calm themselves. Teeth grinding can remain into adulthood maybe as reaction to different feelings. You may do it unconsciously when you are excited or feel pain. When children develop teeth grinding into a bad frequent habit, things are not going well and orthodontics or myofunctional therapy may find the solution for its treatment, prevention or treat the damages left. Children will face with the destructive damages to both their teeth like teeth wear and oral soft tissues like muscle pains.
- Mouth breathing and sleep disorders
whether it is because of anatomical problems or just a habit, mouth breathing has many destructive effects on both the form of your teeth and jaws and also the position of your oral soft tissues. Constant open mouth when awake or sleeping will cause oral and facial muscles to get into an abnormal position, which cause airway obstruction during sleeping that result in snoring and sleep apnea.
- Speech difficulties
the incorrect posture of the oral muscles of cheeks, tongue and lips can have negative consequences on your speech or get ‘lisp’ when articulating sounds.
- Other habits and pains
myofunctional therapies and exercises related to treat orofacial disorders are effective and non-invasive without any risks. Other pains in head and neck or habits like lip biting and nail biting are more likely have caused various impacts on our occlusion of teeth, our jaw position and oral soft tissues. Your dentists and maxillofacial surgeon can provide the best solution for treating these conditions or breaking these habits with orthodontics or even surgery. But there are times that myofunctional therapy alone or along with these treatments can be a necessity.
Myofunctional therapy exercises
Myofunctional exercises involve mainly your tongue, lips and other orofacial muscles. Therapies can be used for both children and adults. Growth changes in children during puberty is suitable time for getting the best results, so the exercises for children can be started at or near this age or when they are about 9 years old. The exercise should be done a number of times during the day and will take one or 2 years depending on your condition or what your therapist recommends.
The goals of these therapies are to reduce any unusual pressures from facial muscles, correct abnormal tongue position and swallowing patterns. For example, to treat abnormal swallowing habits, the child should hold a mint tablet against their roof part of their mouth. As the mint starts melting, the child should swallow it with the help of the flow of saliva while still holding the tongue tip up to the roof of the mouth.