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Orofacial Myology

Thanks to a new field of dentistry called Orofacial Myology, Dr. Roca has begun scheduling patients to learn this new way of preventing malocclusion (bad bite) from the beginning.

What is myofunctional therapy?

Orofacial Myology, Myofunctional Therapy, and Oral Myofunctional Therapy are all terms used to describe a program of exercises that helps you stop oral and facial habits that can change your appearance and affect your health. It retrains the muscles of your mouth, jaw, and face, bringing them into harmony – instilling new and positive habits to make sure those changes last.

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What are the four goals of myofunctional therapy?

  1. Nasal breathing – Breathing through the nose is the way we are supposed to breathe. It filters, warms, and adds moisture to air. Healthy nitric oxide is also released when you breathe through your nose.
  2. Lip seal – Our lips should rest naturally and comfortably together. When your mouth is closed, you sleep better at night and have a lower risk of getting tooth decay and gum disease.
  3. Proper tongue posture – The tongue is supposed to fill up the entire roof of the mouth. When it does, it provides an internal support structure for the upper jaw. If your tongue is in the right place your teeth will grow in straighter and your face will develop properly. The tongue plays an amazing role in our facial appearance.
  4. Correct swallowing pattern – If your tongue pushes forward when you swallow, you have a tongue thrust swallowing pattern. This makes you more likely to swallow small amounts of air when you eat or drink, and you may experience digestive issues such as acid reflux, stomach pain, gas, and bloating.

What is orofacial myofunctional disorder (OMD)?

Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMDs) are disorders of the muscles and functions of the face and mouth. Examples of OMDs are abnormal chewing and swallowing patterns (tongue thrust) and improper tongue position. OMDs may affect, directly and/or indirectly, breastfeeding, facial skeletal growth and development, chewing, swallowing, speech, occlusion, temporomandibular joint movement, oral hygiene, stability of orthodontic treatment, facial esthetics, and more.

What causes orofacial myofunctional disorder?

While it is often difficult to pinpoint a single cause of OMD, it can often result from one or more of the following problems:

  • Improper oral habits including thumb, finger, or long-term pacifier sucking
  • Restricted airway due to enlarged tonsils or adenoids; allergies; or chronic nasal obstruction
  • Family heredity
  • Structural or physiological abnormalities such as a short lingual frenum (tongue-tie) or abnormally large tongue (macroglossia)
  • Chronic open mouth posture
  • Neurological or developmental abnormalities

How might orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMD) affect everyday life?

An OMD may lead to an abnormal bite – the improper alignment between the upper and lower teeth – known as malocclusion. This problem may lead to difficulties in biting, chewing, swallowing, and digesting of food. If you want more information about tongue thrusts, please contact us today.

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What are some symptoms of OMD?

  • Your lips usually rest apart.
  • Your tongue routinely rests against your teeth or pokes out between them.
  • You have trouble breathing through your nose.
  • You routinely have headaches or jaw, face, or neck pain.
  • You habitually bite, suck, or chew on your lips, nails, hair, or other objects.
  • You snore, sleep restlessly, or sometimes stop breathing while asleep.
  • You find it hard to eat neatly and quietly.
  • You have trouble swallowing pills.
  • You have speech issues.
  • Your face is elongated.

At what age do you start to offer myofunctional therapy?

Myofunctional therapy is suitable for everyone from age four on up. Treatment by the age of seven or eight is ideal, as oral habits are less ingrained at this stage and easier to change, encouraging healthy dental growth. However, it’s never too early to have your baby do simple exercise for their jaw muscles to help them be stronger and giving them appropriate food and chew toys to develop their jaws and facial muscles.

What is a tongue thrust?

Tongue thrust (also called reverse swallow or immature swallow) is the common name of orofacial muscular imbalance, a human behavioral pattern in which the tongue protrudes through the anterior incisors during swallowing, speech, and while the tongue is at rest; but also the tip and/or sides of the tongue press against or spread between the teeth.

Why might a tongue thrust happen?

Constant pressure from resting or incorrectly thrusting the tongue away from the hard palate may push teeth out of place. That pressure may later prevent teeth from erupting (breaking through the gum). Correct swallowing depends on a proper relationship between muscles of the face, tongue, and throat.

What is lip incompetence?

Lip incompetence is an inability to keep the lips together, closed mouth posture at rest, and showing strain in the muscles around the face when a lip seal is attempted. Lip incompetence can result in changes in facial development, tooth eruption and alignment, breathing, swallowing, and jaw joint function.

Myofunctional therapy can help:

  • STOP a tongue thrust habit.
  • START breathing through your nose instead of your mouth.
  • QUIT thumb-sucking, nail-biting, lip/cheek-chewing, or other poor habits.
  • RE-TRAIN facial and tongue muscles to recover physiological function.
  • SUPPORT head-neck-body posture.
  • PREVENT or correct Long Face Syndrome.
  • ESTABLISH a harmonious oral environment.
  • ADDRESS issues such as speech problems, sleep apnea, snoring, digestion, clenching/grinding habits, and TMJ disorders.

One major recommendation is to avoid putting anything between the child’s palate and tongue, like the older sippy cups that have been used for years. This way the tongue can then learn to live in the palate where it belongs. We also talk about helping babies exercise their jaw muscles to help them be stronger.

We also recommend use of the MyoChew™ chewing brush (available for sale in our office) for babies to chew on when they are young and teething to help clean the teeth and stimulate jaw growth. We need our children to start at a very young age, as soon as it is allowed by your pediatrician, to chew hard foods and chomp on hard toys that can work out their facial muscles.

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Don’t delay! Call us now at (703) 237-7622 to schedule your next preventative visit, or to ask us any questions about your routine care.