What is Myofunctional Therapy and How Does it Work?

For some, the ability to speak, eat, swallow, and even breathe doesn't come as naturally as they do for others. Our oral and facial features and functions require a complex combination of brain, muscles, and nerves to function properly. When orofacial myofunctional disorders occur, however, there are several approaches to strengthening and restoring these functions, including myofunctional therapy. 

What Is Myofunctional Therapy?

Also often referred to as "tongue therapy," myofunctional therapy is like physical therapy that is designed to target the muscles of the face, mouth, and tongue in order to address concerns related to the function of these myofascial features. The exercises used in myofunctional therapy are intended to help properly train or improve actions such as speaking, chewing, swallowing, and even breathing. 

What Kinds of Concerns Can Myofunctional Therapy Address?

Myofunctional therapy addresses abnormal patterns of movement associated with the face, mouth, or tongue. These issues are classified as orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs), and problems such as blocked nasal passages, improper tongue positioning, and chewing or sucking habits past the age of three can cause OMDs to develop. 

In certain cases, myofunctional therapy has been shown to help with OMDs such as the following:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea and snoring (sleep-disordered breathing)
  • Speech disorders
  • Malocclusion
  • Tongue thrust
  • Post-surgical eating (in cases of oral or facial surgery)
  • Tongue-tie (along with surgery)
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder

While many of these conditions are complex and can sometimes require additional treatments for complete resolution, myofunctional therapy has been shown to be effective in improving treatment outcomes in these cases. In other cases, myofunctional therapy can completely resolve a patient's issues in a simple, holistic, and non-invasive way. 

How Does Myofunctional Therapy Work?

Myofunctional therapy consists of exercises that are designed to re-educate the neuromuscular structures of a patient's face, mouth, and oral cavity. The exercises are designed to intentionally strengthen certain muscle groups or relax others while teaching the brain, nerves, and muscles to work together to restore optimal positioning and movement. 

Generally, myofunctional therapy exercises can help to improve a patient's lip seal, tongue position, and nasal breathing. These exercises can be used to address a variety of OMDs. 

When treating obstructive sleep apnea – a sleep disorder that occurs when the muscles of the throat relax, allowing soft tissues in the throat to collapse and block the airways – myofunctional therapy is used to strengthen and improve the function of the muscle groups that support the throat's and upper airway's soft tissues, helping to keep airways open during sleep. Additionally, myofunctional therapy for sleep apnea might also focus on improving the resting position of the patient's tongue for the purpose of keeping airways free while supporting nasal breathing. 

Myofunctional Therapy Exercises

Myofunctional therapy encompasses a wide range of movements and exercises designed to address problems associated with OMDs. The exact combination of exercises, repetitions, and duration of treatment that is recommended varies from patient to patient and is based on the needs and concerns of each individual patient. 

Some examples of common myofunctional therapy exercises include:

  • Tongue presses - Pressing or sucking the entire tongue up against the hard palate
  • Tongue touches - Pushing the tongue's tip up against the hard palate before sliding it backward and forward
  • Teeth touches - Maintaining contact between the tip of the tongue and the back of the bottom front teeth while raising the back of the tongue against the hard palate
  • Balloon inflation - Taking deep nasal breaths and using them to blow up a balloon by exhaling through the mouth
  • Uvula raises - Saying 'Ah' while lifting your soft palate and uvula (the back extension of the soft palate)
  • Yogurt (or milkshake) suction - Sucking yogurt or an equally viscous milkshake through a narrow straw
  • Party horn - Blowing through a party horn

Is Myofunctional Therapy Right for You?

If you think myofunctional therapy might help you address an OMD or obstructive sleep apnea, we encourage you to schedule a consultation. Our dentists can talk with you about your concerns, evaluate your facial structures and movements, and help you determine if myofunctional therapy might be beneficial to your health. 

Oral Myofunctional Therapy With Our Dentist in Stuart, Florida 

If you've been busy searching for "myofunctional therapy near me," search no further. At Aesthetic Dentistry of Stuart, we strive to change lives for the better by using advanced tools and technology to deliver premier dentistry and aesthetic services in a warm, comfortable, and relaxing environment. We are proud to offer myofunctional therapy as an effective and holistic treatment solution that is seamlessly complemented by our comprehensive, traditional dental care. 

To learn more about myofunctional therapy or to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced dentists, we welcome you to contact our office to request an appointment today. 

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