What is Myofunctional Therapy?
Myofunctional Therapy is the re-patterning of the tongue, lips, jaw, and facial muscles through a series of specialized exercises and behavior modification techniques.
The goal of Myofunctional Therapy is to correct and eliminate the symptoms of dysfunctional oral habits that may be influencing improper muscle patterns, which can affect the normal growth, development, and function of the face, jaw and temporomandibular joints.
These symptoms include mouth breathing, tongue thrusting, low tongue level, forward head posture, clenching (bruxism), poor chewing habits (unilateral chewing, smacking of food), ill sleeping patterns, thumb sucking and nail biting. The elimination of these habits can greatly reduce and improve issues affiliated with muscle-related TMD (temporomandibular joint dysfunctions), ADD/ADHD, allergies, and breathing-related sleep disorders.
Through Myofunctional Therapy, positive habits are learned and reinforced. These habits include learning where the tongue should rest at all times, keeping the lips sealed at all times (eliminating mouth breathing), learning how to elevate and use the tongue properly for drinking, chewing, swallowing, and talking. Your tongue, lips, and facial muscles balance each other, and when one is out of place or not working correctly, it throws off the balance of everything else.
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What are Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMD’s)
- Mouth/lips open resting posture / Mouth breathing
- Tongue thrusting in speaking / swallowing
- Thumb sucking /finger, tongue, lip sucking
- Nail biting or lip licking
- Restricted frenums (Tongue Tie)
Consequences of OMD’s
- Affects the long term stability of orthodontic treatment leading to Orthodontic Relapse / Crooked Teeth
- Facial growth and development
- May affect breastfeeding
- Development of a forward head posture
- Grinding or clenching of the teeth
- Temporomandibular joint dysfunctions
- Frequent headaches and migraines
- Related to Sleep Breathing Disorders (SBD)
- Gum disease
- Middle ear drainage issues
- Impacts the work of orthodontists, dentists, dental hygienists, Speech Language Pathologists, Lactation Consultants, Occupational Therapists, and other professions working with the orofacial area.
Who does Myofunctional Therapy Help?
- Those undergoing TMD treatments. 90% of TMDs are muscle-related
- Those undergoing any type of orthodontic treatment, especially in cases of orthodontic relapse (crowding, shifting, open bite, cross bite)
- Mouth breathers
- Those who clench and grind
Those who have had nasal surgery or a tonsillectomy
- Those with facial asymmetry
- Tongue Thrusters
- Those with a tongue tie/tongue restrictions
- Those who are/were thumb suckers
- Those with bad oral habits such as nail biting or tongue sucking
- Those who used a sippy cup, pacifier, or bottle for too long.
- Those with allergies, enlarged tonsils, adenoids, or turbinates
- Those with ADD/ADHD
- Those with sleep breathing disorders
- Pre and Post op frenectomy’s (tongue ties/tethers)
- Post op Orthognathic surgery
What does Myofunctional Therapy Involve?
Therapy involves a series of non-invasive exercises that work to retrain the muscles of your mouth, tongue, jaw and face bringing them into harmony. A kit of materials and aides will be provided on your first therapy visit. Exercises are meant to be built upon, and daily practice is necessary for the desired outcome. Exercises should take up no more than 30 minutes total, and many can be incorporated into your daily routine.
What are the GOALS of Myofunctional Therapy?
- To eliminate dysfunctional habits such as thumb sucking, tongue sucking, nail biting, pen chewing, etc.
Develop harmonious facial muscle patterns
- Eliminate mouth breathing habit (Develop a proper breathing pattern with reduced oxygen intake)
- Eliminate open mouth posture at rest (now that your nasal passages are clear, we need to retrain your breathing and begin to enhance your nasal cavity capabilities)
- Learn proper tongue placement at all times (your tongue will have a new comfortable place to rest. It has been tied down its whole existence and has no idea what to do or where to go now).
- Develop a proper breathing pattern (eliminate chest breathing and learn proper diaphragmatic breathing)
- Develop a correct swallow pattern (not a forward tongue swallow)
- Develop oropharyngeal muscles (throat, soft palate and uvula muscle tone)
- Develop muscle strength and tone in tongue
- Develop lingual-mandibular differentiation (tongue is isolated from the movements of the lower jaw)
- Develop a lingual palatal seal
- Improve forward head posture
- Improve sleep posture
- Develop a proper chewing technique (with lips closed, tongue up, bilateral chewing, and no pouching of food)
- Develop a proper drinking technique (with lips closed, elimination of leakage/spillage, no gulping or pouching of liquids)
- Improve forward head posture
- Improve sleep posture/sleep habits.
- Reduce clenching/grinding
How Long is Therapy?
Most therapy can be accomplished in 6 months to one year, with the majority of appointments taking place in the first 2 months. Myofunctional Therapy works to address the underlying cause of dysfunctions instead of the symptoms.
Therapy time is dependent upon patient/parent participation and commitment. During this time, an individualized exercise program is created to help you achieve jaw stabilization, lip tone and strength, tongue tone, and a correct swallow pattern. The bilateral function of the jaw or chewing muscles (masseter, posterior temporalis, pterygoid musculature) is introduced, and proper chewing and drinking techniques are taught. We work to develop the soft palate, uvula and oropharyngeal muscles (important for airway and sleep). We develop the back of the tongue, and teach the tongue its proper rest position which is in the roof of the mouth across the palate. We work to eliminate jaw shifting, mouth breathing, tongue thrust, nail biting, and unilateral/ bilateral tongue flare.
Poor habits in the areas of sleep are addressed, as well as nail biting, lip biting and licking, cheek, tongue, and pen biting, gum chewing, musical instruments, leaning on the face, computer/desk posture, cell phone and texting posture, and the use of water/sports bottle.
Phase One: Habit Elimination Phase
This phase is a must for eliminating thumb sucking, nail biting, lip licking, hair biting, etc. This phase lasts about 30 days and includes rewards and behavior modification techniques.
Phase Two: Intensive Phase
This phase lasts about 8 weeks with appointments scheduled once a week. This is the most important part of the therapy, as old habits are being eliminated and new ones are being established. It can take 6 weeks for a muscle to change. This phase will introduce weekly exercises that focus on re-patterning of the orofacial muscles. These exercises will involve muscle activation, lip competence, proper tongue rest position, encouragement of nasal breathing, and proper chewing and swallowing of food and liquids.
Phase Three: Maintenance Phase
This phase lasts about 4 months. Appointments are scheduled once every 2-3 weeks. In this phase we work to maintain newly developed habits and address functional posture habits of the head and neck.
Phase Four: Habituation/Retention Phase
This phase lasts for the rest of the year (once a month) until Myofunctional Therapy is complete.
Success of Myofunctional Therapy
The success of therapy rests upon the severity of the disorder, patient motivation, patient compliance, and family support. No patient is the same and there is no cookie-cutter approach. Every patient has different needs and circumstances. Some will progress quicker than others. The one important factor in reaching your success is commitment and compliance with daily home assignments, and regular treatment attendance. In order to repattern and build the muscles involved, you will need to do it slowly, over time, to effectively reprogram your muscle memory. On average It takes about 6 weeks to train one new muscle, and we are working with several. Like anything else worthwhile in life, Myofunctional Therapy takes time, patience, and practice.
Recent studies confirm a 90 percent success rate with Myofunctional Therapy and its stable long term effectiveness.
Contact me to set up your initial consultation today!