Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy
Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy is an integral part of a successful orthodontic treatment. Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy is a structured, individualized therapy based on the neuromuscular re-education or re-patterning of the oral and facial muscles and restoring or developing normal oral functions. The therapy includes facial exercises and behavior modification techniques to promote proper tongue position, improved breathing, chewing and swallowing. Proper functional head and neck postures are also addressed.
Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy may include any or all of the following:
- Elimination of damaging oral habits (thumb/digit sucking, tongue thrust, nail/cheek biting, pen/pencil chewing, etc.)
- Reduction of unnecessary tension and pressure in the muscles of the face and mouth
- Strengthening of muscles that do not adequately support normal functioning
- Development of normal resting postures of the tongue, jaw, and facial muscles
- Establishment of normal biting, chewing, and swallowing patterns
- Treatment of TMJ muscle dysfunction as it relates to bruxism and clenching
Growth and Development of the Child’s Face and Jaws
Growth and development of the child’s face and jaws as well as the position of the teeth are determined by the forces of the muscles of the mouth – tongue, lips, and cheeks – pushing on them during resting, breathing, chewing, and swallowing. In fact, these forces can mold not only the teeth, but also the jaw bones during the growing years. Bad oral habits such as thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, mouth breathing, incorrect swallowing, as well as poor oral posture with lips apart at rest are major contributing factors of orthodontic problems and unfavorable facial growth. These habits should be corrected as soon as they become evident.
Traditional braces can move the teeth very well and make them straight but they do not address the causes of crooked teeth. That is why, after orthodontic treatment is completed, children need to wear the retainers to keep the teeth from going back to their starting position.
As many have experienced, if the retainers are not worn, teeth will crowd up again.
If we move the teeth or change the shape and size of the jaw, then we need to change the muscle function to match. If we fail to change the muscle function, then the muscles will put the teeth and jaws where they started and the result of any orthodontic treatment can be compromised.
The length and timing of Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy varies according to the severity and nature of the oral myofunctional disorder. In most cases, therapy is a short term process with the active stage lasting about three months. Follow up visits may be required with decreasing frequency over 6-12 months. Regardless of the causes, once inappropriate oral behavioral patterns are established, they tend to continue until new behaviors can be learned. Sometimes changes of the oral environment by a dentist or an orthodontist may bring about improved oral functioning. However, most of the times, Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy is required to bring about the desired changes in oral behaviors. Adverse oral behaviors can often interfere with dental and/or orthodontic treatment and stability of the treatment result.