The Magic Of Myo- Myofunctional therapy
Here’s the definition:
“Orofacial Myofunctional therapy is neurological re-education to assist the normalization of the developing, or developed, craniofacial structures and function. It is related to the study, research, prevention, evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of functional and structural alterations in the region of the mouth (oro), face (facial) and regions of the neck (oropharyngeal area).”
Now, here’s the translation: it’s a series of exercises to re-teach you how to chew, swallow, breathe, and stop bad oral habits (like finger sucking, lip licking, nail biting or cheek biting). These habits create negative pressure that changes the shape of the bone, and can alter sleeping and breathing. Where is your tongue resting as you read this? It should be on “the spot” behind the bumps on the roof of your mouth, and then plastered to the roof of your mouth. Are your lips together, teeth apart? Close your mouth and read on!
As you may have guessed from previous posts, I love learning about all things health related. The human body is so wondrous. It wants to heal itself, given the chance. So, a few years ago I kept hearing about something called “myofunctional therapy,” and it continued coming back into my circle of consciousness. Finally, I had to investigate this and see what it was all about. Six months ago I had my daughter see a myofunctional therapist to address her supragastric belching, and lo and behold, she improved dramatically. Whoa! It works, much to my surprise! See my post- Got the Super Burps? ( My daughter is still doing her exercises and is 99% improved!) My interest in “myo” was peaked and I just recently took an in depth course in it. I am hooked and had to learn more.
|Mouth breathing results|
Just like physical therapy re-educates your muscles, and weight training makes your muscles stronger, myofunctional therapy re-educates your lips, tongue and oral muscles, and makes them stronger. It is an emerging field- while not new (it started the beginning of the 1900’s) most folks are not aware of it. It works with the lips, tongue, cheeks and face, as well as swallowing, breathing and chewing. You would think swallowing, chewing, breathing and proper tongue placement would be easy to do correctly- instinctual even. You would be incorrect. Look around you! Open mouth breathing, head forward posture, crooked teeth, nail biting, and lip licking abound! But everyone does these things, you say. Sure, many people do, but the results of these seemingly innocuous habits can be dire. Open mouth breathing can lead to crooked teeth, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, misshapen facial development, allergies, and then, secondarily, poor academic performance. There’s more, but you get the picture. My blogs post on mouth breathing and sleep apnea go into this in more depth. Head forward posture is definitely an OMG! Mom was certainly correct when she told you to stand up straight! Again, this could eventually block your airway, which leads us right back to sleep apnea. Crowded teeth, also called malocclusion- ask any dental hygienist about crooked teeth. How healthy are teeth that are crowded? Folks with crooked teeth have more gum disease and more tooth decay, which can affect our hearts and other body parts. Then there’s appearance- Long Face Syndrome. We all want to appear and, function at our best, and live a healthy life. It starts with oxygen and breathing properly. Breathing trumps everything else. Our habits dictate all these issues. Unlearning these habits and replacing them with healthy ones is one of the aims of myofunctional therapy.
Why am I so excited about oral myofunctional therapy? Something seemingly so simple can have such a profound effect on health. And no one knows about it! It puts the muscles in the proper place, and allows the body to function correctly.
What can myofunctional therapy do?
|Head forward posture consequences|
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction ( TMD)
Myo may be able to help. TMD may be related to dental changes such as chewing on one side of the mouth, clenching, mouth breathing (here it is again!), habits such as nail biting, or even resting your hand on your chin. (Oh dear, I just caught myself doing this as I re-read my post.) Myofunctional therapists work along with other team members such as the orthodontist, dentist and physical therapist to rebalance the muscles of the face, mouth and neck to restore proper functions. This may lead to elimination or reduction of the signs and symptoms of TMD.
Breastfeeding promotes proper growth and development of the face and muscles in addition to the nutritional and immunological benefits. When there is a feeding problem, often the baby is shifted to a bottle and mom is encouraged to give up. Has anyone looked under baby’s tongue or lifted baby’s lips??? Frenulums may be the culprit. These tissues that anchor the lips or tongue may be too short and be the cause of failure in nursing. The tongue is anchored and does not allow proper latching to the breast. Your lactation consultants and myofunctional therapist can work with your dentist to assist is achieving success in breastfeeding.
Thumb sucking and pacifiers use a problem
|Hmm, which would you prefer?|
Sucking thumbs, fingers or the beloved binky can and will remold the mouth to fit around it. Muscle is stronger than bone, especially soft, malleable baby bone. Pacifiers, thumb and digit sucking all can lead to a much higher incidence of crowded teeth, narrow arch, tongue thrust, downward tongue rest posture, mouth breathing and sleep apnea. Check out this power point. Do we really want to set up our children for painful orthodontics down the road, as well as all the health problems associated with tongue thrust and the resulting speech disorders, malocclusion, sleep apnea and mouth breathing? Did your dentist recommend a “crib” or “rake” to discourage thumb sucking? Myofunctional therapy may be a more gentle and natural way to achieve a discontinuation of this habit. The tongue should be resting on the roof of the mouth. Mouth breathing, thumb sucking and the like train the tongue to rest on the floor of the mouth. The jawbone molds around the oral habit, causing crowding and a narrow airway. Does your child prefer soft foods? This could be related to lack of muscle strength and /or enlarged tonsils. A myofunctional therapist can help your child eliminate these oral habits.
I have two entire blog posts on mouth breathing. Click here and here for more information. For your health, as well as the health of your entire family, nasal breathing is vital. Your car and your house both use filters to clean the air, so should you use your nose to clean the air going into your body. Myofunctional therapists can help your learn how to clear your sinuses and breathe through your nose, ALL THE TIME. Even when you have a cold! Allergies, enlarged adenoids and tonsils, as well as weak muscle tone, tongue thrusts, thumb sucking, – there are so many causes of open mouth breathing. It may take a team of professionals to help find the cause. Your myofunctional therapist can contribute the exercises and guidance to be successful in your treatment.
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction ( TMD)/Chronic Pain
Myo may be able to help. TMD may be related to dental changes such as chewing on one side of the mouth, clenching, mouth breathing (here it is yet again!), habits such as nail biting, or even resting your hand on your chin. Myofunctional therapist work along with other team members such as the orthodontist, dentist and physical therapist to rebalance the muscles of the face, mouth and neck to restore proper functions. This may lead to elimination or reduction of the signs and symptoms of TMD. Read Shay’s blog post about how she was swallowing incorrectly and how myofunctional therapy saved her life.
Cosmetic Muscle Toning
|Doesn’t she look better?|
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