Personalized therapy to optimize the form and function of the oral and facial muscles.
What is orofacial myology?
The study and treatment of the muscles of the face and mouth and the way these muscles function together.
Orofacial myofunctional therapy starts with an assessment, followed by weekly sessions and straightforward home exercises to achieve positive change through neuro-muscular re-education.
The focus of therapy is to address any concerns and challenges clients may have by retraining muscle relationships, eliminating harmful oral habits and improving function to positively impact overall health.
Orofacial myofunctional therapy can help with:
- Mouth breathing and open mouth rest posture.
- Tongue resting/pushing against or between the teeth.
- Open bite caused by tongue thrust.
- Reducing risk of orthodontic relapse.
- Messy or loud eating/drinking / Picky eating and texture aversion / Slow eating / Difficulty swallowing /Tongue thrust swallow.
- Excessive drool (poor saliva management)
- Tongue-tie release supportive therapy.
- Oral habit elimination: Sucking of thumb/finger, tongue, cheek, lip, or clothing / Prolonged pacifier use / Biting of nails, lip, or object.
- Facial asymmetry due to muscle weakness.
- Difficulty with oral functions after trauma or illness.
- Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB) and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
Mouth breathing and open mouth rest posture
The most significant detriment of mouth breathing to overall health is that it is high-volume breathing. This causes changes in physiology which can lead to poor sleep quality, snoring, sleep apnea or increased levels of stress and anxiety. Mouth breathing does not allow for correct tongue or lip rest postures, changes the aesthetics of the face and strains body posture though positioning the head and neck slightly forward to make breathing more comfortable.
Mouth breathing and a "lips apart" rest posture increases a person’s risk of dry mouth (xerostomia), oral inflammation, bleeding gums and periodontal disease. There is also often an increase in frequency of upper respiratory infections.
Correct breathing is nasal breathing with all aspects of the breathing pattern normalized.
Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB) and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
While not directly treated or cured by orofacial myology, evidence suggests that therapy can provide improvements in SDB and OSA. The benefits of supportive therapy to enhance treatment outcomes for these conditions are greatest in combination with breathing retraining and in collaboration with the patients sleep medicine dentist or physician.
Tongue-tie is a restriction in the movement of the tongue, ranging from mild to severe. This restriction is due to tension in the lingual frenum. Tongue-tie causes difficulties at every age; it interferes with infant feeding, swallowing and oral hygiene. Tongue-tie also affects speech, causes tension in the neck, face and jaw and can contribute to sleep disordered breathing.
A dentist, oral surgeon or ENT (otolaryngologist) can perform a tongue-tie release (lingual frenectomy). Therapy trains the tongue how to rest and function properly and greatly reduces risk of reattachment of the lingual frenum. It is best to have an evaluation and, depending on the case, start therapy before the tongue-tie release is performed with continued therapy after the procedure to assist healing and achieve optimal function.
Tongue thrust (tongue resting/pushing against or between the teeth)
Tongue rest posture is critical to the stability of a normal bite (occlusion). Movement of teeth is accomplished with light, consistent pressure. When the tongue rests or pushes against the teeth habitually, they move, potentially causing an open bite or orthodontic relapse. Myofunctional therapy to correct tongue rest posture supports orthodontic treatment outcomes and stable occlusion.
Messy or loud eating/drinking
Picky eating and texture aversion
Tongue thrust swallow
These symptoms relate to the chew, bolus collection, swallow sequence. When this sequence is not functioning correctly, eating can be labored, loud, messy and frustrating for the individual and those around them. In many cases, picky eating and texture aversion are due to difficulty of the chew, bolus collection, swallow sequence. Once the swallow sequence is corrected, these issues can resolve.
(In cases where picky eating and texture aversion are not swallow-related, it is recommended that the client see a speech-language pathologist or occupational therapist)
Excessive drool (poor saliva management)
Drool causes inconvenience, embarrassment, self-esteem problems and discomfort. It can be reduced or eliminated through muscle strengthening exercises for the lips and cheeks and by improving the resting posture of the tongue.
Sucking of thumb/finger, tongue, cheek, lip, or clothing
Prolonged pacifier use
Biting of nails, lip, or object
Harmful oral habits, especially thumb/finger sucking, can cause mild to severe alterations in facial skeletal development, eruption and position of teeth, and lead to problems with oral and facial muscles. Speech changes and lowered self-esteem can also develop. Pacifier use past 10 months of age can lead to a number of problems. All such oral habits introduce germs (microbes) into the body increasing the likelihood and frequency of illness.
The severity of the resulting damage caused by oral habits depends on frequency, intensity and duration of the habit. Elimination of harmful oral habits is a first step in therapy.
Difficulty with oral functions after trauma or illness
Changes in or loss of muscle function can be very debilitating. Surgical removal of muscle in the face, mouth or tongue is sometimes necessary due to oral cancer and can cause difficulty with oral functions. Therapy helps to maximize the remaining muscle function and find helpful ways to compensate for deficits.
Facial asymmetry due to muscle weakness
Muscle weakness from illness or trauma can cause one side of the face or mouth to droop. Exercises to strengthen the oral and facial muscles improve facial symmetry.
Face or Jaw pain
While craniofacial pain and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) are not treated or cured directly by orofacial myology, these conditions can be exacerbated by orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs) and can therefore benefit from therapy when OMDs are present. Collaboration with the client's sleep medicine dentist or physician and assessment for OMDs are necessary to determine if supportive therapy can enhance treatment outcomes.