What is Myofunctional Therapy?
Myofunctional therapy is a non-invasive exercise-based treatment modality. It is an individually customized program for symptoms related to poor function of the muscles of the face, mouth, and jaws. If your tongue rests low in your mouth, if you are breathing through your mouth, or you have your mouth open most of the time, you may benefit from Myofunctional therapy.
Myofuncitonal therapy for children and adolescents
Like any other part of the body, the muscles of our face and mouth function best when they are strong, flexible and free to move their normal range of motion. There is evidence that in a growing individual (children and adolescents) posture and force of the muscles influence the growth of the bones.
For the bones of the face including the top and bottom jaws to grow better, the tongue, cheeks and lips have to exert forces that influence them in the right direction. When the tongue sits on the roof of the mouth (this only occurs when the individual is nose breathing), it naturally expands the bone of the palate making room for the teeth to grown straighter naturally. An expanded palate will also allow the bottom jaw to grow forward.
A very important aspect of proper development of the jaws is the development of airways. As the jaws grow forward, they make room for a patent and free airway. If the jaws are small, or the bottom jaw is trapped backwards (giving the appearance of an overbite) it can predispose the child to having narrower airways. Orthodontics therefore is not only about a set of straight teeth, but also about a set of straight teeth that are sitting in the correct position in the three-dimensional framework of the skull.
Early Intervention Myofunctional Therapy
Of course, no one disputes the role genetic play in the growth of our faces and jaw and even despite excellent posture and habits one still might need orthodontic intervention. However, if we remove undesirable habits, such as thumb sucking, incorrect swallowing, and chronic mouth breathing from an early age, we have given nature the best chance to make the jaws grow better.
Benefits of Myofunctional Exercises
Your child may benefit from myofunctional exercises (done in the form of games) if:
They are a chronic mouth breather- you can observe your child during sleep or daily activities like watching TV of playing games.
If they have a habit of finger sucking or dummy use
If they have an incorrect swallowing pattern
If they sleep poorly due to chronic mouth breathing.
If they are developing the signs of crooked or misaligned jaws at an early age
If they need a tongue tie release (lingual frenectomy) and they are of an age that can do their daily exercises. In our experience, prehabilitation and rehabilitation of the tongue greatly improves the outcome of the procedure.
Myofunctional Therapy For Adults
There is mounting evidence that connects the poor posture of tongue and mouth breathing to sleep issues and many sleep physicians around the world use Myofunctional Therapy as an adjunct to other trailed and tested treatment modalities, such as mandibular advancement splints(snore guards) or CPAP machines. The idea is that toning of the tongue and muscles of the pharyngeal wall (muscles of the airway) decreases their flaccidity and collapsibility and aid in improvement of sleep related symptoms.
Benefits of Myofunctional Therapy
The other common reason for adults needing myofunctional therapy is the malfunction of the muscles of the face in a compensatory way. When a muscle is fatigued quickly (for example a tongue that is tied to the floor of the mouth and cannot move freely) then other muscles need to aid it in carrying out specific functions. This can have a long-term cascading impact on muscles and joints of the head and neck region. Based on our clinical experience reports of better posture, less headaches and better sleep are common in patients who have had Myofunctional Therapy (and a tongue tie release if indicated).
How is treatment done?
Treatment begins with a comprehensive evaluation by our myofunctional therapist, Alicia. From here, Alicia will develop a set of specific exercises suited to your needs. These exercises are painless and relatively simple to do. This modality is heavily reliant on patient compliance. Therefore, to succeed in this therapy, exercises must be consistently practiced, until the improper muscle pattern is corrected. Please note, that treatment length may vary from patient to patient.
What is the Goal of Myofunctional therapy?
The four main goals of myofunctional therapy involves: