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If you notice that the muscles in your face, mouth or throat are not functioning properly and this is making it difficult for you to eat, speak or breathe, you may need to undergo myofunctional therapy.
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Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders and Myofunctional Therapy
Myofunctional therapy is a program used to treat orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs) that occur when your tongue and facial muscles do not work together correctly.
Most OMDs develop as a result of issues with improper nasal or oral breathing habits that cause the muscles and functions of the face and tongue to adapt, creating changes that can cause an array of health problems including:
- Malocclusion and TMJ – When facial muscles develop abnormal functions, it can place stress on the temporomandibular joint and cause the jaw to misalign, creating an abnormal bite pattern that can effect biting and chewing.
- Difficulty swallowing – If your tongue is not functioning properly, you can develop an improper pattern of swallowing that can have numerous negative effects on your health and even on your facial appearance.
- Stomach issues – If your OMD causes you to swallow air, you may have trouble digesting food.
- Speech impediments – If you have abnormal tongue and muscle patterns, you may develop a lisp or have difficulty articulating certain sounds.
- Trouble breathing – When the tongue does not rest and function in the proper position, your airway can be obstructed, causing you to develop odd breathing habits.
Depending on the severity of your OMD, you may also experience additional health issues.
How does Myofunctional Therapy Work?
Orofacial myofunctional therapy is generally painless and consists of a program of exercises that are relatively simple. This can include identifying and eliminating harmful oral habits such as nail biting or thumb sucking in conjunction with implementing a regular schedule of specific exercises to help correct muscle patterns. Sometimes myofunctional therapy provides the most beneficial results when combined with an orthodontic treatment, but your dentist can help you determine which course of action is right for you.
Myofunctional therapy usually requires a 6 to 12 month period, but the length of treatment may vary depending on your unique needs.