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What is Myofunctional Therapy & How Can it Help Me? | Earthotic

At Earthotic, we believe education leads to empowerment. Periodically, we’ll share what we’re learning in an effort to help others who might be in the same boat. Plus, if we discover something new that relates to holistic health, you can bet we’ll share it with you!

Our most recent discovery: Myofunctional Therapy

For those who have trouble with TMJ, obstructive sleep apnea, tongue thrust, or speech problems, you may have stumbled upon this article in search of non-invasive answers. Ironically, the term myofunctional therapy is quite a mouthful. However, it may be a life-changing method to consider if you’ve struggled with airway, jaw, or tongue problems. So, we’re here to offer a more comfortable, long-term solution. After all, who really wants to wear a cumbersome sleep apnea mask for the rest of their life?

What is Myofunctional Therapy?

Put simply, myofunctional therapy is a gentler, non-invasive, and equipment-free therapy program. It’s used to correct the functions of the tongue or face muscles. First, the goal of the program is to properly train and strengthen orofacial muscles in a way that is truly maintainable for the sufferer. Furthermore, therapy includes exercises and practices that teach patients how to appropriately engage their muscles. Therefore, it may help relieve their chronic symptoms.[1]

Disorders & Symptoms Treated by Myofunctional Therapy

Under the care of a certified therapist or related specialist, myofunctional therapy may help relieve or resolve the following chronic conditions:[2]

  • Abnormal bite or lip alignment
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)
  • Jaw disorders
  • Bell’s Palsy
  • Mouth breathing/insufficient nasal breathing
  • Incorrect tongue position/tongue thrust
  • Speech impediments
  • Poor prolonged oral habits
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
  • Central sleep apnea
  • Complex sleep apnea
  • General orofacial myofunctional disorder (OMD)
  • Chronic orofacial pain
  • Snoring
  • Unexplained dental problems
  • Overbite or underbite
  • Teeth grinding
  • Eating or swallowing difficulty/disorders

Signs & Symptoms of Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder

Some people may benefit from myofunctional therapy and not even know it. For instance, some symptoms are subtle, minor annoyances that may be fixed in a few short sessions. In contrast, others are complex disorders the sufferer has dealt with for years. However, myofunciontional therapy may resolve their issues within a few months. Surprisingly, many suffer from myofunctional disorders without even knowing the cause. A myofunctional therapist can help identify the root cause of orofacial issues.

For instance, do you experience:

Sleep Apnea[3][7]

  • Loud snoring
  • Periods where you stop breathing in your sleep
  • Waking up gasping for air
  • Dry mouth
  • Morning headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Irritability and difficulty paying attention during the day

Orofacial Myofuntional Disorder[2]

  • Mouth breathing
  • Limited tongue movement
  • Difficulty eating and swallowing
  • Dental problems
  • Tongue tie
  • A “sleepy” face

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder[4]

  • Grinding teeth (bruxism)
  • Jaw pain
  • Popping or clicking jaw joints
  • Chronic jaw or ear pain
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Locking jaw joints, especially at night or in the morning
  • Struggling to open and close your mouth

Bell’s Palsy[5]

  • Sudden unexplained onset of weakness or paralysis on one side of the face
  • Unable to smile or make facial expressions
  • Difficulty opening or closing one eye
  • Facial droop
  • Jaw or ear pain on affected side
  • Sensitivity to sound on affected side
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste
  • Changes in tear and saliva production

*The cause of Bell’s Palsy is unknown. In most cases, it is a reaction to a viral infection or to swelling and inflammation around the nerves that control facial muscles. It is usually temporary but sometimes reoccurs. Myofunctional therapy can potentially speed recovery and help the patient regain muscle control.

Myfunctional Therapy as A Supplemental Treatment

The great thing about myofunctional therapy is that it is so versatile and can work alongside other treatments, surgeries, and appliances (both permanent and removable). In fact, if you’re not seeing the results you want from your current treatments, or if you’re worried about using a CPAP machine forever, myofunctional therapy in conjunction with those treatments will accelerate your recovery!

Plus, if you’ve already had corrective surgeries such as orthognathic surgery, maxillofacial surgery, jaw surgery, dental implant surgery, or UPPP (UP3) surgery for sleep apnea, myofunctional therapy can help you heal faster and see more effective results. Because some of these surgeries are fairly invasive, some people are hesitant to endure pain and then wait through a 2-4 week recovery period. Trying myofunctional therapy before surgery is a great first step (although we recommend speaking to an orthodontist or another qualified medical professional before making a decision on treatment).

Who is Certified to Perform Myofunctional Therapy?

Some speech language pathologists (SLPs) incorporate aspects of myofunctional therapy. However, it is important to ask if they are familiar with the therapy and can aid with myofunctional exercises. Most SLPs work primarily with speech disorders as opposed to sleep apnea or TMJ patients. So, if you do have issues with speech, this may be the best route for you.

To receive full and accurate myofunctional therapy, find a trained and certified myofunctional therapist. For example, the Academy of Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy offers a search tool to find certified myofunctional therapists in your area and compare their profiles to find one that best fits your needs. In order to get the most out of your therapy, it’s important to find a therapist you trust. It’s also crucial to find a therapist who will take time to listen to your concerns and personal goals and work with you to create an effective plan. If there is not a Myofunctional Therapist in your area, you can search outside of your area for Myofunctional Therapists that accommodate online therapy sessions.

Things You May Not Know About Myofunctional Therapy

Interestingly, myofunctional therapy goes beyond facial muscles and mouth/oral functions. For instance, myofunctional therapy also addresses forward head and neck posture as well as poor neurological habits relating to head, face, neck and mouth. Oftentimes, sleep disorders or orthodontic procedures go hand in hand with myofunctional therapy.

In addition, if you have a child who struggles with pediatric sleep apnea, breathing problems, or tongue ties, a myofunctional therapist can help identify problem areas to discuss with your doctor as well as work with your child in correcting bad habits in advance.

Visit the Academy of Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy[6] website for more information and resources.

How MT Relates to Earthotic’s Mission

At Earthotic, we believe in caring for whole person. Holistic health goes beyond clean eating and nutritious supplements by pairing a healthy diet with strong mental health, emotional health, and physical health. When all parts function together, you feel better!

So, for those looking into less invasive or non-medial solutions, unique therapies such as myofunctional therapy may be the holistic alternative you’re looking for. Plus, therapy allows the individual to take charge of their recovery as opposed to depending on medications and devices. We’ve personally witnessed how empowering therapy can be for people struggling with chronic conditions. With therapy, individuals have the autonomy to practice strengthening exercises and retrain their brain to change bad habits into healthy ones. All of this fits into Earthotic’s mission to help our community take control of their health. Likewise, therapy is one tool among many to achieve that.

Finally, for more resources on how to achieve holistic health, follow along with the blog. Or, if you have a topic you would like to learn more about in relation to holistic health, please drop a line on our contact form. We’re here to support you on your journey! Don’t forget to join our mailing list while you’re there. We look forward to meeting you.

Sources:

  1. Zaghi, S. (2020). Myofunctional Therapy. Zaghi MD. 
  2. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2020). Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders. ASHA. 
  3. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, July 28). Sleep apnea. Mayo Clinic. 
  4. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2018, December 28). TMJ disorders. Mayo Clinic. 
  5. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, April 2). Bell’s palsy. Mayo Clinic. 
  6. Academy of Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy. (2020, July 23). Introduction to Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy. AOMT Info. 
  7. de Felício, C. M., da Silva Dias, F. V., & Trawitzki, L. (2018, September 6). Obstructive sleep apnea: focus on myofunctional therapy. Nature and science of sleep, 10, 271–286. 

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