Breathing and Sleeping- It all starts with the tongue!

Myofunctional Therapy

The relationship between the muscles in your face, mouth and throat should be working in harmony. When these muscles do their job, they allow you to breath, swallow, chew, speak and move easily and painlessly. Sometimes for people these muscles don’t always work so easily together, Myofunctional Therapy seeks to correct any muscle disorders in the face, neck, head and mouth with repetitive exercise based therapy. 

We are so lucky to have Mandy Thompson as an Orofacial Myofunctional Therapist in our office! She is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about helping her patients!

What is Myofunctional Therapy used for?

People who suffer from orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs) usually have weakened or underdeveloped muscles in their face, mouth, and throat. Myofunctional therapy aims to strengthen and retrain the oropharynx through simple repeated exercises. The oropharynx connects the mouth and throat, it is basically a “tube” lined with muscle tissues to help us eat, speak and breath. The oropharynx helps keep the airway open during sleep, if it is weak it may disrupt the flow of air causing snoring or sleep apnea.

The Tongue Plays A BIG Role

What a lot of people don’t realize is that the tongue plays a bigger role in our bodies than we think. When the tongue isn’t functioning properly it can disrupt your whole airway. Two problems a person may have are a tongue tie and/or a tongue thrust. A tongue tie is a physical problem when the  frenulum of the tongue is too tight, too short and too restricted. It changes the range of motion that the tongue is able to achieve. A tongue tie usually needs surgery to be corrected, which is called a frenectomy. A tongue thrust is a habit someone develops that may start as a mouth breathing issue. When your tongue is resting at the bottom of your mouth, everytime you swallow it is pushing forward against your teeth. Essentially, it’s poor muscle coordination, and is a habit that can be fixed. These two problems sometimes go hand in hand, if you have a tongue tie you could also develop a tongue thrust. Luckily, with myofunctional therapy these two problems can be addressed and improved! 

Here are some of the signs and habits someone may have if they have OMDs:

  • Teeth grinding
  • Mouth Breathing
  • Thumb sucking
  • Nail biting
  • Shorter upper lip
  • Developmental abnormalities
  • Drooling
  • Sleep disorders
  • Speech disorder
  • Chewing problems
  • Swallowing problems
  • Jaw Pain

Dental Problems with Mouth Breathing

If you breathe through your mouth the bacteria is different than if you were to breathe through your nose. We have a microbiome, a flora of bacteria that lives in our mouth. There is a balance of good and bad bacteria, if we breath though our mouth that balance gets out of whack. We are then more likely to have tooth decay, cavities, or even gum disease. Mouth breathing dries out your mouth, for example if you’re asleep and your mouth is open and gets dry, the saliva can’t do its job of cleaning the inside of your mouth while it is closed and cavities or gum issues develop. 

Kids V.S. Adults

Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders aren’t only in adults, in fact a lot of these habits begin as an infant and slowly start to affect you as you grow.  When we see a child with these poor habits, we want to train them to have healthy habits so they can grow and develop correctly. Their jaw should be growing forward and their face should be growing wide, they should be developing nice broad palettes with room for their tongue and for their teeth to come in straight. Kids that don’t get these habits fixed, usually grow into adults with longer narrow faces, smaller mouths, narrow airways, more likely to develop jaw pain, facial pain, neck pain, headaches and even sleep apnea. When these problems are caught at a younger age, we can train them to get the correct habits in place as they are growing into adults. 

What is an Orofacial Myofunctional Therapist?

Orofacial Myofunctional Therapists are trained to teach their patients self awareness and teach habit correcting techniques to eliminate oral habits and optimize oral functions in children and adults. Picture a physical therapist but for your face and mouth, our therapist is teaching exercises that mostly revolve around the tongue and lips. Patients will learn new connections between their brain and their tongue and the muscles in their face and mouth. Myo therapists will first need to determine what is the leading problem with the tongue which could either be a tongue tie or tongue thrust. These exercises are really unique and even fun to do! Our treatment plans are individualized to the specific needs of each patient.

5 GOALS of A Myofunctional Therapist

  • Correct excessive habits
  • Nasal Breathing
  • At rest “lip seal”
  • Want your tongue to be resting on the roof of your mouth
  • Proper chewing and proper swallowing

This is just a quick introduction to the basic concepts of myofunctional therapy, we hope it sparked your interest and shed some light on the topic. If you have any questions or are interested in a consultation please call our office at 970-349-5880! We look forward to speaking to you! 

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