There’s always that point in a career where you start to second guess your trajectory. In dental hygiene, unfortunately, it comes sooner than most other careers. With the introduction of COVID-19 precautions and additional PPE requirements, many are lost navigating a world of workplace satisfaction and safety.
Then there’s the thought about how much you are really doing to help your patients. Not just with their periodontal disease, or preventing caries, but in their overall health. Yes there are the commonly discussed health connections between oral health and diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s; but what about the more common daily struggles with sleep, congestion, focus, and breathing?
There is significantly more a dental hygienist can do for their patients, even in just being able to identify the signs that present in the mouth prominently for those silently struggling with sleep deprivation and apnea. This is where myofunctional therapy comes in and becomes an excellent lateral career move! So today I’m going to answer the top frequently asked questions by registered dental hygienists about becoming a myofunctional therapist and give some tips to get started.
FAQ #1 How do you become a myofunctional therapist?
The short answer is that it takes two things: a desire to learn more about myofunctional therapy and a RDH license (That’s right, you do not need a special degree – an Associate’s is fine). The long answer is that you should be prepared to take at minimum an introductory course for myofunctional therapy and be motivated enough to start your practice and build a team. Airway focused dentists, dental orthopedic appliance providers, orthodontists, frenectomy providers, and sleep specialists are always looking for more knowledgeable professionals to add to their referral base. Some are looking to have them work within their offices to provide services conveniently for their patients. But none of them are going to advertise it on Indeed.com or any other job search engine. Your opportunities in myo will come as you seek them out.
Our TeamMyo course is combined to provide BOTH the introductory course AND the business course for 14 weeks packed of value to get you prepared to see patients and build a practice either within a dental office or independently. This is great for those who are highly motivated, self-starters, personable, and desire to be their own boss!
FAQ #2 How much does a myofunctional therapist make?
This will vary based on your location, similarly to hygiene wages. Those in higher wage areas will be able to charge more and make a higher wage than those in rural areas. Running your own practice, you set your own fees and can charge between $75-300 per visit. Working within a dental office usually results in lower wages based on your role and responsibilities within the practice, averaging between hygiene wages and specialty rates ($35-70/hour). We discuss the intricacy involved in determining your wages and business costs in our business course (which if you didn’t read FAQ #1, is included at a steep discount with our intro course).
FAQ #3 Can I do both myofunctional therapy and clinical dental hygiene?
Absolutely, but never at the same time! As a RDH we are bound by our license to stay within our scope of practice and state regulations. In almost all 50 states myofunctional therapy and orofacial myofunctional disorders are NOT written into our scope of practice. So while you will need your RDH license to prove you have the educational background and experience in oral anatomy, function and health, YOU WILL NOT practice myo while you are a dental hygienist. This just means that you separate ALL payroll and systems so that no one can misinterpret you practicing myofunctional therapy while actively clocked in as a registered dental hygienist. For those looking to practice within a dental office, this just means you have a separate day, schedule, software, or space to practice.
FAQ #4 Where can I learn more and how can I start to implement this now?
By joining the Out of the Op and Into Airway Challenge group on Facebook! We have videos in the “Units” tab of the group in Units 2-4 that go over Myo 101, Selling Airway, Why Mouth Breathing Matters, and Team Building and Networking! These are all absolutely FREE! There’s even bonus presentations on Airway Careers, Mindset, Tongue Tie protocol, and 5 things every dental professional should know about myo. You can find these in the “Announcements” section.
FAQ #5 What is involved in your courses?
We have two courses: Sleep Toolbox and TeamMyo. Sleep Toolbox is for ALL dental professionals looking to learn more about airway focused dentistry and treatment options to build a successful airway practice. Dentists, dental assistants, and dental hygienists who take this course will be eligible to take our certification exam to become certified Dental Airway Specialists. This course can also prepare those who wish to have an alternative airway career (outside of clinical myofunctional therapy) the skills and knowledge to be a valuable member of an airway or sleep practice in another role. Whereas TeamMyo is exclusively for dental hygienists who wish to become myofunctional therapists.
Sleep toolbox is 12 weeks in length and Team Myo is running for 14 weeks this fall. We meet once weekly via Zoom for lecture and then again for Q&A. Both meetings are approximately 1 hour in length and recorded for those who are unable to attend live. We give homework at the end of each lecture that helps you to implement the lesson concepts for that week and build either your initial practice or clinical skills. Overall, there is approximately 2.5 hours of weekly commitment involved in the courses.
FAQ #6 Do I need to be certified?
Certification is NOT required to practice myofunctional therapy. There are many more professionals practicing without certification than with. That being said, we do understand the value that many place on having certification and professional credentials. That is why with our TeamMyo course we offer graduates the option to take our competency exam to prove your mastery of both clinical and didactic requirements for our certificate of competency!
The International Association of Airway Hygienists are working towards establishing an independent board for future certification with recognized professional credentials by the Department of Education (DOE). However, that is still several years away as it will require collaboration from many educators and time to fulfill requirements mandated by the government. While other organizations do currently offer a trademark with permission of use, this does not represent a nationally recognized designation and DOE accredited agency recognition. So while certification is nice to have, it will not impact your ability to practice successfully and safely.
Tips to get a great head start
Search professional association directories to see who the providers are in your area. It gives you a great idea as to who you may be able to network with for referrals. You can even start the process prior to taking a course because it takes time to get a constant source of referrals. So while you are in the process of learning, you are almost expediting your success by having a solid foundational network of providers who will be sending clients your way! Try searching the directories of the following organizations to find the dentists and doctors in your area that are airway friendly:
- Foundation for Airway Health
- American Academy of Physiological Medicine and Dentistry (AAPMD)
- International Association of Tongue Tie Professionals (IATP)
- The Breathe Institute Ambassadors
Alternatively, look up your local myofunctional therapists. As you learn more about orofacial myofunctional disorders you will see there is an abundance of need, so there is no shortage of clientele. Reach out and talk with your local therapist and ask about their learning process, who they connect with and how they got started. This will be a valuable relationship to have as you learn and grow in this field.
Overall, be open to learning and connections and you will be light years ahead of the game and fully prepared to step out of the op and into a fulfilling career in airway!