Oral Myofunctional Therapy
Oral Myofunctional therapy is the neuromuscular re-education of the oral and facial muscles. It is the treatment of face, tongue, jaw, and neck muscles to improve function and tone.
Normal muscle function and resting postures are essential for proper growth, facial/ dental/ speech development and breathing. The aim of myofunctional therapy is to improve nasal breathing and create an environment that is favourable for the correct development of the jaws and face. Evidence now suggests that retraining to get these muscles back to normal also reduces the likelihood of developing obstructive sleep apnoea.
When might oral myofunctional therapy be of benefit?
There are many indications for treatment, and here are some of the common indications that we are most interested in managing. In most cases, it is the result of a combination of factors.
- Habits such as thumb, finger, dummy, and/or blanket sucking.
- Habits like nail, cheek and lip biting.
- Mouth breathing – This is often corrected to nasal breathing once the airway obstruction has been cleared by an Ear Nose and Throat specialist.
- A narrow high upper palate, a large tongue and an oversized uvula or allergies.
- Structural or physiological abnormalities such as a tongue ties.
- Prevention of scar tissue that affects normal mobility of the tongue once the tie has been released.
- Abnormal swallowing patterns and tongue thrusts that can contribute to open-bites.
Oral myofunctional therapy may be recommended for a variety of functional or cosmetic reasons. The therapy program is designed to retrain muscular function and to create a healthy orofacial environment. This type of therapy is highly complementary to orthodontics, whereby by addressing and managing the muscle imbalances that cause crooked teeth, we can achieve more stable long-term results. In children, this will help to avoid extractions of permanent teeth for the purposes of gaining space or more invasive jaw surgery.
Before a therapy program can be started there are a few issues that need to be attended to.
- Airways can be a major issue. Ensuring someone can breathe through their nose efficiently is very important.
- Physical barriers such as tongue or lip ties, must be addressed. This can quite easily be corrected with the LightWalker Dental Laser technology that we have available at Smile In Style.
- The shape of the mouth especially a narrow upper palate. Expansion devices can be used to widen the palate making it easier to breathe through the nose. At Smile in Style, Dr Rose and Dr Rajcoomar are orthodontically trained Dentists who can treat these cases.
Once an assessment is completed, appointments are scheduled every two weeks. Therapy consists of exercises performed for five minutes two to three times a day. All muscles respond better to regular and consistent exercise. With cooperation and commitment, a typical course of treatment takes approximately eight visits for children. A longer course may be required for adults depending on their symptoms and conditions.
Kathleen Colton is a Biological Hygienist who has completed her Oral Health education and the Biological Dental Hygiene Accreditation course and is available for appointments in the Moonee Ponds rooms on Fridays. Call Smile in Style in Moonee Ponds at 03 8400 4104 to schedule an appointment or book online at smileinstyle.com.au