You may have heard of myofunctional therapy, but do you know what the treatment involves? Find out how it works, and how it can be used…
What is myofunctional therapy, exactly?
Myofunctional therapy refers to an individualized program of exercises designed to strengthen and retrain the tongue and oral-facial muscles. It is often a highly effective course of treatment for patients who suffer from teeth-grinding, breathing problems, poor posture, orthodontic relapse, cervical neck tension and/or jaw pain. Myofunctional therapy is also used to correct maladaptive oral habits and help restore an ideal resting oral posture.
What is the purpose of myofunctional therapy?
The goals and objectives of myofunctional therapy include promoting exclusive nasal breathing; strengthening and toning the muscles of the tongue and oral-facial complex; promoting an ideal oral posture (which is lips together, tongue on the roof of the mouth and nasal breathing.); identifying compensations of the jaw and neck during chewing, talking and swallowing; and becoming aware of and eliminating parafunctional habits such as thumb sucking, hair chewing, and nail-biting.
When is the therapy used?
Myofunctional therapy is used to treat and manage a range of conditions, known as orofacial myofunctional disorders. These disorders affect the muscles and functions of the face and mouth, and as such, often cause issues with facial skeletal development and growth as well as chewing, swallowing, speech, occlusion, oral hygiene, and temporomandibular joint movement.
In most cases, orofacial myofunctional disorders are caused by improper oral posture and associated issues like mouth breathing and incorrect swallowing. Myofunctional therapy works to train the tongue into a correct resting position, and helps to strengthen and tone the muscles of the tongue and face so that they can function as they should.
What are the signs of orofacial myofunctional disorders?
Individuals who suffer from orofacial myofunctional disorders often have a protruding tongue when swallowing and speaking, and in some cases, even when the mouth is in a resting position. This improper resting position of the tongue tends to affect the function of the mouth, and can lead to problems like misaligned teeth, teeth grinding, and speech impediments. Other possible signs of orofacial myofunctional disorders include facial pain, mouth breathing, snoring, and sleep apnea.
An improper tongue position can also cause orthodontic issues like overbites and underbites, which can increase the risk of gum disease and tooth decay as well as a reduced saliva flow (one of the tongue’s self-cleansing functions).
How can we help?
At Pittsford Dental Excellence, we have a special focus on airway dentistry, of which myofunctional therapy often is a very helpful part. Dr. Guarnieri has received training in pediatric sleep apnea and is able to address sleep breathing disorders with both myofunctional therapy and the use of oral appliance therapy.
Oral appliance therapy helps to prevent breathing obstructions that occur during sleep by keeping the lower jaw in a forward position, which maintains an open airway and facilitates optimal airflow throughout the night. The oral appliances that we provide are custom made to fit each individual patient — this means that the appliances can be worn comfortably during sleep and can be adjusted as necessary for maximum effectiveness.
If you suspect that you or your child snores, has their lips apart at rest and/or is a mouth breather, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our dental team strives to provide our services with compassion and integrity to improve your oral and overall health. Find out more about our team of professionals here.
For more information or to make an appointment, please get in touch with us here. We are located in Pittsford, New York, but if you live out of town, do let us know so that we can help you arrange transportation and accommodation.