What is Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy?

Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy is an interdisciplinary practice that works with the muscles of the lips, tongue, cheeks, face and their related functions (such as breathing, sucking, chewing, and swallowing). Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMDs) affect functions and muscles of the mouth and face. Some of these dysfunctions include: disordered chewing, swallowing, malocclusion, poor oral hygiene, and stability of orthodontics. It can also act in improving sleep disordered breathing and facial aesthetics. Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (OMT) is the method of treating these conditions in people of all ages by training the muscles in your cheeks, lips, tongue, and face to function together properly. The 4 Goals of Myofunctional Therapy are: Correct Tongue Rest Posture, Nasal Breathing (all day and night), Lip Seal (all day and night), and Correct Swallowing Function. To accomplish this most people are given simple exercises to practice daily over a period of 6 to 12 months.

Who would benefit from Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy?

Orthodontics and Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy

Orthodontics and OMT can be closely related with each directly impacting the other. Treatment may be indicated before, during, and or after orthodontics. Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy can improve the outcome of treatment and help prevent orthodontic relapse. OMT may also benefit patients who have a history of orthodontic treatment and have experienced relapse due to excessive pressure applied to the teeth by the tongue.

Chronic Facial and Jaw pain

There may be many factors that lead to chronic pain in the head and neck region. The Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy Specialist, after conducting a thorough assessment and working in an allied approach, may apply techniques to rebalance the muscles of the mouth, face and neck. Thus aiding in the restoration of breathing, chewing, and swallowing functions. With this, there may be attenuation and/or elimination of the signs and symptoms of facial pain and TMD.

Poor Sleep/Snoring

There may be many different factors contributing to poor sleep in an individual. Improved sleep depends on the ability of one to have correct tongue posture, lip seal, and nasal breathing. These are three of the goals of OMT! Sleep disordered breathing (according to the Academy of Physiological Medicine and Dentistry) is defined as all conditions that are a result of altered breathing during sleep. This includes sleep apnea, upper airway resistance syndrome, and snoring. (Yes, snoring can be an early warning sign of sleep disordered breathing. It is a red flag that should not be ignored!) Also included is frequent arousals, restless leg syndrome, sleepwalking and night terrors. There has been much research proving the benefits of OMT for sleep disordered breathing and Mild Obstructive Apnea (OSA). OMT strengthens your muscles, that can widen your airway and allow muscles to function properly. Your entire tongue must rest flat against your palate during sleep to keep your airway open and encourage nasal breathing during sleep. In this position, your body is able to rest and get into the deeper stages of sleep essential for health.

Oral Breathing

Oral breathing or mouth breathing affects your health more than you probably know. It can cause bad breath, and gums that bleed even when you have good daily home care routines. The importance of your nose often goes unnoticed. Your nose was made for breathing. The air that passes through the nasal cavity is warmed, humidified, and filtered. Your nose also adds resistance to the air stream. This increases oxygen uptake by maintaining the lungs’ elasticity. The nose produces Nitric Oxide, which is a signaling molecule. Nitric Oxide increases the ability to transport oxygen throughout your body, including inside your heart. It relaxes vascular smooth muscle and allows blood vessels to dilate. This is important for maintaining blood pressure. Nitric Oxide is also antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitic, and antibacterial. It helps the immune system fight infections. When you are using your mouth for breathing you are essentially “over breathing”. You are in a state of hyperventilation. This increases heart rate, breathing rate and keeps your central nervous system in a “fight or flight” state. In other words, it does not allow your body to rest properly. This as you can imagine, affects many bodily functions you need to maintain your health.

Chewing,Swallowing/Digestion

Can chewing on one side be harmful? Yes it is! By chewing only on one side, only muscles on one side of the face are emphasized. This can cause facial asymmetry over time. In addition, the bite can be altered and the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ- the joint that connects the jaw to the skull and allows the mouth to open and close) on the opposite side of mastication may suffer an overload. This over time can damage the joint and cause pain. Not chewing food enough, is also a OMT dysfunction that can lead to digestive issues. Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy

improves the balance of these muscles of mastication working on balance and equilibrium of muscle function. After chewing comes swallowing. The tongue plays a lead role in proper swallowing technique. Without proper swallowing function Aerophagia is often the result. Aerophagia is the swallowing of air. When a person does not have a correct swallowing pattern, air is swallowed leading to digestive issues such as stomachaches, bloating, and acid reflux.

How does Myofunctional therapy help?

Just as physical therapy helps to train our bodies back into optimal shape after an injury, OMT helps by training the soft tissues of the face, neck, and mouth to function optimally. Myofunctional Therapists work on the neurological re-education of the brain to form new patterns of function. In other words, retraining the brain so these correct functions are effortless. A Myofunctional therapist will develop a plan based on an individual’s needs. This plan consists of exercises that patients do daily for 6 to 12 months. This may seem like an extensive amount of time, but remember, we are implicating new patterns of function. Orofacial Myofunctional disorders have often occurred over a lifetime and changing those patterns takes time and practice.

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