Our most recent discovery: Myofunctional Therapy
If you 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, but it may be a life-changing method to consider if you’ve struggled with airway, jaw, or tongue problems without any comfortable or long-term solutions – 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 used to correct the functions of the tongue or face muscles. The goal of the program is to properly train and strengthen orofacial muscles in a manner that is truly maintainable for the sufferer. Therapy includes exercises and practices that teach patients how to appropriately engage their muscles, therefore relieving their chronic symptoms.
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:
- 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
- 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. Some symptoms are subtle, minor annoyances that may be fixed in a few short sessions. Others are complex disorders the sufferer has dealt with for years, and myofunctional 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.
Do you experience:
- Loud snoring
- Periods where you stop breathing in your sleep
- Waking up gasping for air
- Dry mouth
- Morning headaches
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Irritability and difficulty paying attention during the day
Orofacial Myofuntional Disorder –
- Mouth breathing
- Limited tongue movement
- Difficulty eating and swallowing
- Dental problems
- Tongue tie
- A “sleepy” face
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder –
- 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
- Difficulty opening and closing your mouth
Bell’s Palsy –
- Sudden unexplained onset of weakness or paralysis on one side of the face
- Difficulty smiling or making expressions
- Difficulty opening or closing one eye
- Facial droop
- Jaw or ear pain on affected side
- Sensitivity to sound on affected side
- Loss of taste
- Changes in tear and saliva production
*The cause of Bell’s Palsy is unknown, but 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 always following your doctor’s or dentist’s advice first and foremost).
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. Some are more familiar with the practice than others, and most SLPs work primarily with speech disorders as opposed to sleep apnea or TMJ patients. 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. 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. 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 for myofunctional therapy and work with you to create an effective plan.
Things You May Not Know About Myofunctional Therapy
Interestingly, myofunctional therapy goes beyond facial muscles and mouth/oral functions. 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.
How Myofunctional Therapy 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!
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. Therapy is one tool among many to achieve that.
For more resources on how to achieve holistic health, follow along with the blog. 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.
- Zaghi MD
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
- Mayo Clinic — Sleep Apnea
- Mayo Clinic — TMJ
- Mayo Clinic — Bell’s Palsy
- Academy of Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy
- NCBI — Obstuctive Sleep Apnea & Myofunctional Therapy