The Magic Of Myo- Myofunctional therapy

Barbara Tritz
· March 16, 2015 ·

8 minutes

 Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy- what the heck is this? and why might I or my child possibly benefit from this?

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 difficulties 

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

spiked tongue thrust appliance - Marielaina Perrone, DDS
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.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Do you snore?  How well do you sleep?  Do you wake up more than once a night?  This may well be the result of total or partial obstruction of breathing while sleeping.  If so, please see a sleep specialist and then consider including a myofunctional therapist on your team to help strengthen the muscles of the mouth and throat.  Would you be willing to do 30 minutes of oral exercises a day to give up your cpap machine?  Of course, do not do that without the knowledge and care of your sleep medicine doctor.  Something to consider though, isn’t it?   We do exercises to firm up other saggy-baggy body parts.  It makes sense we could firm up our neck, throat and oral cavity and there’s research to prove it!

Mouth Breathing

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.


A frenum is a small band of muscle- there are seven of them in your mouth.  Their function is to keep  the lips and tongue in harmony with the bones during fetal development.  Sometimes these bands are too short.  A short frenum often goes undetected yet can create all kinds of havoc.  There’s often a genetic tendency, so mom or dad- know your little bundle of joy may also be afflicted.  Be sure to lift their lips and check under the tongue!!  Why is this so important?  Being tongue tied keeps the tongue from resting on the roof of the mouth- remember open mouth breathing?  see above 🙂  Also,  it may create a tongue forward thrust type swallow.   How about orthodontic relapse?  Often, a tight frenum is the cause.   Being tongue tied is much more than a cosmetic issue.  Swallowing, correct tongue movement, bone loss, and TMD pain can all be connected to tongue ties.
Again, in newborns, please lift the lips and check under the tongue as soon as the baby’s born.  Inability to latch, mastitis, pain on nursing swallowing air, reflux, extended nursing time, and  colic may all be connected to tongue ties. It’s now the law in some countries that doctors have to check this!
Adults that clench and grind- it may well be because of a tongue tie.  Listen to this video of Samantha and how much better she feels even the day after her frenectomy (clipping the frenum).  The myofunctional therapist is the person to help you with tongue exercises both before and after the frenectomy.  The tissue can reattach if the  area is not stretched and exercised properly.



Facial Trauma/Paralysis/Special Needs

People who have suffered from a facial trauma, paralysis, and those with special needs such as Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, or chronic pain should be seen by a team of specialists.  An advanced myofunctional therapist can be part of that team.  The myofunctional therapist may improve swallowing, breathing, speech and chewing.  They help you balance the muscles of the face which may help relieve pain, decrease swelling, improve chewing, speech and appearance of scars.

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.

Tongue Thrust

A tongue thrust is also called a  reverse swallow.  You should not see the tongue while talking (unless you say the “th” sound), or while eating.   During chewing, the tongue should be going up to the spot on the roof of the mouth and then push the food or drink down and back, not forward.  GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disorder) may be related to tongue thrust.  A myofunctional therapist can help you to re-train your tongue to stay in your mouth.  (My daughter had this problem.  Along with the tongue thrust, she swallowed air which caused her to burp, a lot.)  Drooling from improper swallowing, mouth breathing, open mouth chewing, and sleep apnea- it’s all connected!  And, should be corrected!   Swallowing correctly depends on a proper relationship between the face, tongue and throat.

Cosmetic Muscle Toning

Doesn’t she look better?
How about looking younger, healthier and having better muscle tone?  All without surgery!?  Myofunctional therapy may help tone and strengthen muscles by changing muscle patterns, habits and postures.  Reduce wrinkles and improve facial appearance- all without surgery or injections, how much “greener” can you get?  A face lift without the scars, I’m all for that!
I still have so much to learn about myofunctional therapy, but am excited to share my newfound knowledge with you.  Finally a way to  help reduce excessive belching, mouth breathing, incorrect tongue posture, tongue ties, and so much more.  Myofunctional therapy may appear magical but it truly works gently through a series of daily exercises over a four to 12 month time period.  It takes that length of time to retrain the muscles.  Health requires proper breathing, correct swallowing and tongue posture, and facial muscles in harmony,  all of which a myofunctional therapist can  help you to achieve.  I’m excited and proud to say I’m a myofunctional therapist!
Question? Comments? Thoughts?  I look forward to hearing from you! You can always use the form on the right side of the screen, or email me at
Keep Smiling,
Til next time,

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Hello, I'm Barbara Tritz

Unveiling the Stories Behind Dental Hygiene

Loving science, especially biology, from an early age, Barbara is a registered dental hygienist, certified biological hygienist, and orofacial myofunctional therapist. In 2019, she received the Hu-Friedy/ADHA Master Clinician Award from the American Dental Hygienist Association.

Share your thoughts below!


  1. Anonymous

    Hi Barbara, thank you very much for sharing this information. I would like to know whether the tongue is also supposed to be touching the roof of the mouth even when sleeping (and specifically, when laying on your back).

  2. Barbara Tritz

    Thanks for reading! Yes, your tongue should rest on the roof of your mouth unless you are eating or talking. It should lock on to the palate front to back, just behind the bumps on the roof of the mouth. When it does, this ensures proper jaw development -not crowded teeth (especially in children), toned, compact tongue which allows for a good airway, and relaxed jaw muscles. Even in sleep it's vital- this tongue posture suspends the lower jaw, relieving the need to clench! I have written extensively about mouth breathing, sleep apnea and proper facial growth. Check out my other posts. If you type in mouth breathing in the search box above, you'll get lots of great info! Again, thanks for checking out my post and for asking a question!

  3. Justin Allison

    There are so much important for get an idea. This is a nice Post thats you know about beauty. I am enjoyed reading your description.

  4. Barbara Tritz

    Thank you for reposting this important information!



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