Tongue and Swallow Function

myofunctional disorders
myofunctional therapy

Myofunctional therapy is especially helpful in treating orofacial myofunctional disorders. Also known as an OMD, this type of disorder is one stemming from the muscles and/or functions of the face and mouth. If you have an OMD, it can compromise your oral health and have a negative effect on your daily lifestyle. It can impact the way you eat, chew, sleep, and breathe.

How do I know if I have an orofacial myofunctional disorder?

While it may be difficult for you to know whether you have an orofacial myofunctional disorder, certain symptoms are commonly associated with it.

myofunctional disorders

Any of these behaviors can be symptoms indicating the presence of an OMD

  • Difficulty chewing
  • Chewing with the mouth open
  • Frequently breathing through the mouth
  • Problems swallowing
  • Poor resting posture of the tongue
  • Sucking of the thumb and/or fingers
  • Tongue thrust
  • Tongue-tie
  • Speech impediments
  • A dull or sluggish facial appearance
  • Thin or weak lips
  • Bite misalignment
  • Loud snoring
  • For infants and babies, problems breastfeeding—including difficulty latching or failure to thrive

Orofacial myofunctional disorders should be diagnosed and treated as early in life as possible. The International Association of Orofacial Myology recommends that children as young as four years of age can undergo OMD evaluations. However, adults suffering from an orofacial myofunctional disorder may benefit from myofunctional therapy as well.

Why should orofacial myofunctional disorders be treated?

Living with an OMD, over time, leads an individual to develop habits to compensate for the behavior.

These habits are detrimental to your oral health and can lead to the development of even more issues, including:

  • Bite misalignment
  • Crooked or misaligned teeth
  • Teeth clenching or grinding, also known as bruxism
  • Facial pain
  • Stomach aches
  • TMJ Disorder
  • Sleep Apnea or Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome

An OMD may lead to the development of a sleep breathing disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea, a chronic and life-threatening condition that occurs when the airway becomes restricted during sleep. These blockages can occur hundreds of times per night in a patient with an advanced case of untreated sleep apnea. Orofacial myofunctional disorders also result in improper swallowing patterns and poor oral posture.

Because we swallow 500-1,000 times a day, you can understand why improper swallowing could cause a variety of health concerns. However, it is actually a poor oral posture that causes the most significant damage because it is ongoing. The tongue should rest along the roof of the mouth for proper form and function.

Airway disorders (Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome, and Obstructive Sleep Apnea) are commonly caused by OMDs.

These airway restrictions could stem from the following:

  • Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
  • Deviated septum
  • Allergies
  • Negative oral habits such as biting of the nails, cheeks or inanimate objects
  • Teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism)
  • Significant use of a pacifier and/or sippy cups
  • Structural or physiological issues that may stem from having a restricted lingual frenum, also known as a tongue-tie; neurological deficits or genetics

Benefits of Myofunctional Therapy 

Myofunctional therapy uses a series of specially prescribed exercises that serve to re-train the tongue and lips, as well as the muscles of the face and mouth. These are simple exercises that should be able to be performed with relative ease. While the needs of each patient vary, a typical course of myofunctional therapy lasts approximately six months.

This type of therapy is becoming increasingly popular for reasons such as:

  • Myofunctional therapy is non-invasive.
  • Myofunctional therapy focuses on correcting the causes of problems rather than just treating symptoms.
  • Myofunctional therapy is versatile. In addition to being used to treat OMDs, it has been used to resolve sleep-breathing disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea or jaw disorders like temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).

Myofunctional therapy allows a patient who has been suffering from an OMD and its effects to regain his or her ability to eat, speak, breathe, and sleep comfortably and naturally. The improvements to the appearance of the face can boost confidence and self-esteem and make significant changes in overall health.

One goal of myofunctional therapy is restoring ideal oral resting posture: with lips together, teeth together, tongue resting softly against the roof of the mouth while breathing through the nose. 

By achieving or restoring the ideal oral resting posture, this encourages the entire orofacial complex to enter a harmonious state, both for form and function. Maintaining this oral resting posture also encourages proper development of the face and jaw, while also minimizing the development of a sleep breathing disorder. 

Myofunctional Therapy in Raleigh, Durham, and Cary

If you are interested in myofunctional therapy, you should seek out the services of a health professional that is licensed to practice OMT and has significant prior experience. Myofunctional therapy should only be prescribed and monitored by an individual who has undergone advanced training in the field. About Face Collaborative is proud to offer myofunctional therapy as part of our overall commitment to providing the highest level of comprehensive and comfortable oral health care. To learn more about OMT or any of our other services, please contact our office by calling (804) 387-7002. Our doctors work together with other airway-focused physicians to diagnose and treat airway disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea and upper airway resistance syndrome in patients of all ages. Start sleeping better and live a healthier life by scheduling a consultation today!