You may have been told you that you, or your child, need oral myofunctional therapy. Like most people, you have probably never heard of this before and are unsure of what it means. Very likely, you may not have been very aware of having this specific problem and were actually seeking help for some other oral or dental problem.
Orofacial myology therapy sometimes called myofunctional therapy refers to the treatment of oral and facial muscles as they relate to dentition, chewing/bolus collection, swallowing, and overall mental and physical health.
“Tongue thrust” refers to the improper placement and function of the tongue during swallowing and an incorrect resting posture. When the tongue presses against/or between the teeth during swallowing or at rest, the pressure can have adverse affects on the position of the teeth, oral bony growth, soft tissue condition, and mouth functioning.
Resting postures of the tongue, the jaw, and the lips are very important in normal oral growth and condition. When the tongue rests between the teeth, the teeth many not fully erupt, resulting in an “open bite” appearance. If the tongue rests against the upper front teeth (especially if the upper lip is short or weak) the upper teeth may begin to protrude too far forward. When the lips are not in a closed resting position most of the time (when not talking, concentrating, eating, etc.) the growth and development of the mouth can be adversely affected by the tongue resting position.
Excessive non-nutritive or non-speech oral behaviors, such as thumb sucking can also affect the condition of the teeth,health and functioning of the mouth, especially the jaw. When any oral behavior is excessive in intensity, duration, and frequency, the pressures or collision forces can have serious impact on normal appearance, alignment of teeth, normal eruption, development of palate, and oral facial functioning.
Signs and Symptoms:
- Habitual mouth breathing.
- Lips apart at rest or during swallows.
- Tongue visibly forward during eating or at rest.
- Facial smirk or grimace during swallow, or using lower lip squeeze to seal off the mouth.
- Open spaces where teeth should be in which a tongue comes through during swallow or at rest.
- A tongue which comes into a cup when you take a drink.
- Golf ball appearance to the chin when swallowing.
- Washing food down with copious amounts of water.
- Speech difficulities.
- Messy eating, excessive drooling, and crumbs frequently in the corners of the mouth.
- Loose, flaccid lip tone, or teeth that are visible in the presence of an arched upper lip.
- Improperly chewed food yielding frequent stomach and gas pains.
- Excessive elongated facial growth.
- A head which seems to bob forward when a swallow completes.
- Thumb and/or finger sucking
Oral Myofunctional Therapy is a structured, individualized therapy for retraining and restoring normal oral functioning. It seeks to inhibit incorrect muscle movements, and to develop normal, easy functions of oral rest posture, oral stage of swallowing, and the elimination of thumb sucking. Therapy may include any or all of the following:
- Elimination of damaging oral habits (digit sucking, nail biting, etc.).
- Reduction of unnecessary tension and pressure in the muscles of the face and mouth.
- Strengthening of muscles that do not adequately support normal function.
- Development of normal resting postures of the tongue, jaw, and facial muscles.
- Establishment of normal biting, chewing, and swallowing patterns.
The length and timing of therapy varies according to the severity and nature of the oral myofunctional disorder. In most cases therapy is a short term process with the active stage lasting about three months to twelve months.