5 Things You Need To Know Before Starting Myofunctional Therapy And Everything I Wish I Knew

Ready to take your breathing and health in a new positive direction? Myofunctional therapy may very well provide you with relief from the negative manifestations of sleep disordered breathing and airway centered disorders.

As a parent of four children who did myofunctional therapy as an adjunctive natural treatment method for ADHD, sleep disorders, dental crowding, frequent congestion, and poor eating habits, AND as a practicing therapist, I have clear knowledge of the process. This is everything I wish I knew and everything you need to know before you begin myofunctional therapy.

It is a commitment

Myofunctional therapy is like having a personal trainer for all the muscles below the eyes and above the shoulders. They work to strengthen and coordinate those orofacial and oropharyngeal muscles for proper oral resting posture. This is accomplished through learning various exercises and activities on a regular basis until new neuromuscular patterning has occurred and habituation is established.

Whether the therapy is for you or for a child, remain conscious of the fact that therapy is designed to retrain the habits you have established from at or shortly after birth. Years of poor habits must be relearned and adjusted. You will be required to go home and practice your exercises daily. Eventually, exercises evolve into daily life integration and you must actively monitor your orofacial muscle movements and coordination while you perform daily tasks.

Myofunctional therapy involves much more than the time you have to spend actively working with the therapist weekly or bi-weekly, it requires daily commitment.

It is varied

No two therapists will work the same type of program. The field of myofunctional therapy is continually growing and evolving. Often times therapists share case successes, failures, and struggles to learn from each other. The programs that are taught are not yet regulated to be exactly the same. Which is to the benefit of the patients. It requires a therapist to seek out further education and courses, as well as expose them to a basic fact: people are different.

What would work best for you in a myofunctional therapy program is not what would work best for another person. You may present with specific problems or concerns that require certain exercises and the elimination of others. It is imperative that you speak and consult with a few myofunctional therapists to determine who would work best for your concerns.

It is collaborative

While myofunctional therapy is a great natural treatment for a myriad of eating, breathing, and sleeping issues, it hardly ever is the only treatment used. A team of medical and dental professionals often will work together to accomplish your health goals. Often your myofunctional therapist will have various methodologies they use to increase efficiency or enable goals to be accomplished within their program. Expect to need more than just myofunctional therapy and plan accordingly.

It changes your appearance

Strengthening and coordinating proper orofacial muscle movement will improve your facial appearance. The cheeks become less flaccid, the palate becomes wider, the lips strengthen, the teeth shift, and the posture improves. You may notice more physical changes in your pain levels, daily energy, health, and sleep in addition to your appearance. Photographs are usually taken at the beginning of treatment to be compared to the final visit.

Changes are slow and usually difficult to see as you progress through the program. You see yourself daily and gradual results are hard to observe. Do not be surprised to see a new you in the treatment photographs.

It can not be short-cutted

The internet is an amazing and destructive thing. We are offered ample opportunities to seek out information and fulfill needs rapidly. Because myofunctional therapy is a collaborative effort, it often is not done when other traditional medical and dental treatments are draining the budget. The internet has filled the void for everything you need to be done and can not afford.

When it comes to health, there are no shortcuts. Youtube videos are available that have a few or even a series of myofunctional therapy exercises. Many people assume that it can be done through videos alone. The problem with that theory is it disregards coordination and habituation. What specific exercises will address your concerns? What order do the exercises follow to establish new patterning? How do you tackle roadblocks for exercises you are unable to perform? Can you determine whether you are performing exercises with the isolation of the muscles involved in that process?

There are many questions that someone without training would be unable to answer. There are some questions that even some therapists with training are unable to answer. The only way to guarantee results and optimal care is to work with a therapist. Alternatives exist when the budget has little to no wiggle room.

 

I personally struggled initially trying to treat my four children on a budget.  Heed my advice and learn from my mistakes. The path to this natural treatment method is paved with dedication, variation, collaboration, change, and no shortcuts.

Myofunctional Therapy Works: Here’s the proof

There’s much info out there about airway and myofunctional therapy. However, very few compilations of current research and evidence are available for public consumption. Below are journal articles, peer-reviewed studies, clinical evidence and current research for all things airway for your convenience.

Facial soft tissues in mouth breathing children

Forward head posture and mouth breathing

Oral and pharyngeal reflexes: the important role of the tongue

Influence of myofunctional therapy on palatal expansion

Orthodontic relapse without myofunctional therapy

TMD and myofunctional therapy for treatment

The effectiveness of myofunctional therapy on malocclusion

Myofunctional therapy to treat sleep apnea

Myofunctional therapy for severe sleep apnea

Myofunctional therapy as treatment in pediatric sleep apnea

Relationship of snoring and sleep disorders with ADHD

A review of ADHD and sleep

Daytime sleepiness in children with ADHD

Importance of mandibular advancement in sleep apnea treatment / Surgical advancement in treatment of sleep apnea treatment

Tongue tie release as treatment in sleep apnea

Pediatric tongue tie and sleep apnea

Myofunctional therapy and speech

Importance of myofunctional therapy before and after tongue tie release

Adverse affects of mouth breathing on facial growth, health, academics and behavior

Effects of open mouth on sleep

Mouth breathing in allergic children

Myofunctional therapy and CPAP acceptance

Sleep apnea from childhood to old age

 

This list will be continually updated as new research is released

Book List

A comprehensive grouping of airway focused reading can be found on our Pintrest page.

The Real Reason Why You Need Braces

Braces have never been and never will be unavoidable. They are not some genetic guarantee you receive upon birth. They are merely the result of oral habits developed from birth; particularly those dealing with the tongue.

After years of braces and the last straw in lost retainers, there’s a reason why your teeth shifted. I hope you’re sitting… because the culprit is not your lost retainer it’s your tongue!

The tongue is now and will continue to reign as the MVP in oral and facial development. Never to be dethroned by any orthodontist or supplier of braces.

It’s a lot to take in. Similarly to discovering that you lived with Santa and the Tooth Fairy you’re whole childhood (i.e. they weren’t real). How is it that the tongue is so powerful that it has this profound impact on the size of the mouth, the shape of the face and the structure of your teeth?

What kind of barn is your mouth?

Imagine a simple drawing of a house without a roof. It has a simple 3-line open rectangle shape. Two lines that meet at a point would complete the roof and create a pointed top, thus creating an almost pentagonal shape. Now imagine a simple drawing of a barn with a nice rounding that completes the roof. Ideally, we want our palates to develop into a barn shape with the nice arched round roof. Our dental arches should form with a U shape.

ushapedarch

The tongue is the foundation for that development. The tongue should naturally sit up along the palate when we are optimally nasal breathing. The constant pressure of the tongue on the arch facilitates growth around the tongue into that perfect U shape.

Our tongue in that sense is the blueprint for palatal development and should fit in the palate without overlapping the teeth.

When the tongue is low in the mouth, we lose the foundation, and like the open rectangle house, without that round support the palate forms a narrow and almost pointed “roof” shape. It would create an A shape, narrow arch with a high palatal vault. This narrows the available space for the teeth and causes dental crowding and often malocclusion. Ashapedarch

The mandible (lower arch) follows the growth of the maxilla (upper arch). So the growth, or lack thereof, in the palate will be matched, in most cases, by the mandible. Those with underbites, or a wider mandible that contains the maxilla (either in part or fully), often have a tongue that is lying low. The pressure from the tongue on the mandible, along with prolonged spacing between the teeth, cause the mandible to extend and restricts the growth of the maxilla further.

Crowding is not new

A narrow arch does not develop overnight. A high palate (roof of the mouth) and tight primary dentition (baby teeth) can predict the formation of a narrow arch and crowding of permanent teeth.

Typically a pediatric dentist may inform you that your child will need braces in the future. However, an orthodontist that is not trained in early intervention orthodontics will most likely not treat this until the child has developed around 12 permanent teeth. Treatment usually involves a palate expander that forcibly pushes the palate open, ideally, to the width it should have grown.

Retention is maintained by a retainer. When teeth “shift back” to some form of malocclusion it is often because the tongue has not maintained that palatal width with the pressure we discussed earlier. Our teeth are in constant motion and with a lack of stability from the tongue, they will gravitate to their position of origin. Granted, if expansion was done, the teeth do not shift back to origination. But they will move out of the alignment established with braces.

TMJ pain that’s hard to swallow

A low tongue posture is often accompanied by a “reverse swallow.” This improper swallow occurs when the tongue thrusts forward either against the teeth or between them to swallow. Every thrust forward causes the mandible to shift backward and compress the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) in an unnatural way. Multiple cases of this pressure will compound and affects the longevity and stability of the TMJ. Thus feelings of pain, clicking, and popping occur and cause frustration.

retruded mand

The reverse swallow also creates a long narrow face with a mandible that is recessed or retruded. In profile, this would appear as a lower lip that is not aligned with the upper lip. Even in people whose teeth appear straight, this form of a malocclusion does require braces as well. Over time the way the teeth occlude, or bite together, would cause undue harm to the jaw and discomfort during chewing.

What to do

Establishing proper tongue posture with good habits, early intervention, or myofunctional therapy leads to proper oral development in young children. However, it is never too late to attain proper tongue posture to improve wellness. A wide palate means a wide nasal floor with open passages and greater airway space. Ultimately reducing and/or eliminating the potential for sleep apnea, chronic infections, anxiety, asthma and more.

Contact me to find out how myofunctional therapy can help you with your braces or read our introduction to airway post to discover the many paths to airway health.

Why did my doctor recommend myofunctional therapy?

I guess you thought you were in for a simple visit. A routine visit with a simple diagnosis or the always preferred, confirmation of health. Thankfully, you have an excellent doctor who cares about your whole body and sent you on a wellness path!

There are several reasons why you may have been referred to myofunctional therapy, and several types of providers who do refer.

Who may have sent you and why

Speech Language Pathologist (speech therapist) – refer for speech problems that are not improving due to a tongue tie or tongue thrust. Common referrals include lisps and difficulty with S, L, T, D and N sounds. (*myofunctional therapists that are NOT speech therapists do not treat the speech problem, they treat the tongue posture and speech improves in conjunction with continued treatment with the speech therapist)

Otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat doctors)– refer in conjunction with a dentist in their airway team. Typically for those with high narrow dental arches, chronically inflamed tonsils or adenoids, and/or a deviated septum.

Dentists or Orthodontists – refer for tongue thrust, open bite, malocclusion, thumb sucking, high palate (roof of the mouth), narrow arches, mouth breathing, and most commonly in conjunction with braces or oral appliance.

Sleep Physicians – refer for mild sleep apnea and CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) compliance.

If you do myofunctional therapy…

There is far more to gain from myo then what you may have been referred for. Often times problems you had no idea were associated, can be caused by an orofacial myofunctional disorder (OMD).

The body is one large connected unit with many functioning parts. When there is dysfunction in a muscle, often it leads to the body creating a compensatory use of another muscle to perform the task. For example, when you have a reverse swallow it can cause overdevelopment of your mentalis muscle and alter facial appearance.

OMDs can contribute to numerous problems as can be seen below in the infographic. Myofunctional therapy may be the answer you never knew you needed to problems your healthcare provider referred you for, in addition to other underlying issues.

25 Health Benefits of Myofunctional Therapy-01

Still unsure where to go on this airway health journey? Read start with this beginner’s guide.

Contact us to get started with myofunctional therapy today!