Myofunctional therapy is a practice that targets a number of areas of the mouth and face, including the lips, tongue and cheeks, to address any issues associated with the function of these muscles.
The therapy essentially makes use of a series of exercises designed to train patients to adopt a healthy oral resting posture. By performing targeted exercises, the orofacial muscles can be toned and strengthened over time. Gradually, the muscles are trained to remain in place.
So, what does the therapy involve? And who can benefit from it?
What does it involve?
Myofunctional therapy involves the use of repetitive exercises. The exercises are designed to strengthen the muscles in the face, tongue, mouth, and jaw, all of which play an essential role in a number of functions, such as speaking, swallowing, breathing and eating. While the exercises help to strengthen weak muscles, the therapy also trains the muscles to move and rest in healthy, functional positions.
What is it used for?
One of the most effective uses of myofunctional therapy is for the treatment of sleep disordered breathing or sleep apnea. The condition affects millions of people and is often caused by underdeveloped or weak orofacial muscles, as well as an incorrect resting position of the jaw and improper motion of the muscles in areas such as the tongue. Some exercises focus on strengthening the tongue, while others help to tone the airway, preventing obstructions and easing the symptoms of sleep disordered breathing or sleep apnea.
Who can undergo myofunctional therapy?
In the case of sleep breathing disorders like sleep apnea, myofunctional therapy may be recommended for all patients from the age of six years old and up. In fact, the treatment is particularly popular for the treatment of young children, because it’s a non-invasive option with none of the side effects or risks associated with surgery. Furthermore, children can practice their exercises at home with the help of their parents, and for this reason, the therapy tends to be unintimidating and fairly easy to implement.
Besides its ability to treat sleep disordered breathing or sleep apnea, myofunctional therapy also has some orthodontic benefits — the exercises train the tongue to rest in a proper position, which is helpful in preventing issues such as tongue thrust, which often leads to malocclusions later in life.
How do I know if my child can benefit from myofunctional therapy?
Snoring could be a sign that your child has an airway blockage, which may be caused by weak or underdeveloped tongue and throat muscles, in which case myofunctional therapy could be an effective option. Also, if your child has been diagnosed with sleep disordered breathing or sleep apnea, he or she could benefit from the treatment as it strengthens the throat and tongue and trains the tongue to rest properly.
In many cases, airway blockages in children occur because of enlarged tonsils or adenoids combined with an improper tongue or jaw position during sleep. The tongue can block the airway, causing him or her to experience pauses in breathing and to wake up several times in the night. Myofunctional therapy can help to keep the airway open and facilitate the flow of oxygen.
Additionally, if your child breaths with their mouth open during the day, or sleeps with an open mouth, it could be an indication that their tongue position is incorrect, or that their jaw and cheek muscles are weak. These issues can also be addressed with myofunctional therapy.
If your child is showing symptoms of sleep disordered breathing or sleep apnea, please get in touch to arrange a consultation. We will perform an airway evaluation and determine if, or how badly, the airway is blocked.
For more on the condition, and to download our sleep apnea guide, have a look here.