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Myofunctional therapy is the treatment of orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs), which affect the function and muscles of your face, mouth, and neck and can affect anyone – from infants to elderly. Those who participate in myofunctional therapy get incredible results and benefits from it – including decreased pain, improved function, and increased comfort, so it’s easier to eat, speak, breathe, and sleep. The relief you receive from the therapy can be life-changing.
The Open Airway & Breath Institute is dedicated to screening for, increasing awareness of, and treating Airway and Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders in both adults and children. We specialize in improving health by providing individualized therapy for mouth breathing, tongue thrust, tongue tie, sleep apnea and more.
Learning to breathe and use the tongue properly is the key to airway development. Training at an early age can reduce or eliminate the need for more extensive procedures later in life. These include orthodontics, sleep apnea, GERD, heart disease, etc. Beginning with a comprehensive evaluation our therapy programs work toward improving oral and facial muscle strength, swallowing, eating, breathing, tongue-tie and sleep apnea.
We perform a thorough assessment of signs and symptoms you are experiencing as well as review past history to create a full picture of each patients needs.
Individualized treatment plans are tailored to each patients specific needs based on the evaluation process.
Our Myofunctional Therapist, Erin Ulman, typically recommends a 12-session therapy program. For more complex cases a longer term approach may be necessary.
We will work through a carefully structured program, with each session building on the one before it, focused on bringing true functionality to the orofacial complex.
Tongue Posture & TONGUE THRUST
Oral Rest Posture refers to the position of the tongue and lips when resting and not in use. When Oral Rest Posture is correct, it leads to proper development of the jaws, lips, sinus cavities and muscle structure. When Oral Rest Posture is incorrect, it can lead to crooked teeth, tongue thrust, mouth breathing, speech problems and poorly developed jaws.
A tongue thrust is one of the most obvious signs you may need myofunctional therapy. A tongue thrust is when the tongue pushes forward or out to the side during a swallow. The most problematic aspect of this condition is where the tongue rests in the mouth. If someone has a tongue thrust their Oral Rest Posture is incorrect – the tip of the tongue rests against or between the front teeth and the tongue sits low in the mouth. With correct Oral Rest Posture our tongue should rest in the top of the mouth and provide and internal support system for the upper jaw and TMJ.
It is important to realize that a tongue thrust is only a symptom. It can be an indicator of other health problems affecting the airway and breathing. When this kind of a swallowing pattern is present, it is very likely that mouth breathing and an open mouth posture will also be found. Dr. Robin Steely and the team at Open Airway & Breath Institute will work closely with you to diagnose the cause of your tongue posture and tongue thrust issues and use Myofunctional Therapy techniques to remedy them.
Our bodies are made to breathe through our nose, but many things can cause us to breathe through our mouth including: habit, allergies, large tonsils, chronic congestion, asthma or a deviated septum. Each of these factors can make it physically impossible to breathe through our nose!
Breathing through our mouth can have many detrimental effects on our mouth and body.
Tongue thrust: It can change the way the tongue works and where it rests.
Face: It can change the shape of your face and alter your appearance creating a long narrow face, less defined cheekbones, small lower jaws and weak chins. It can also create a gummy smile and crooked teeth, sore throat, frequent colds, bad breath, poor sleep, snoring, and even digestive problems. Mouth breathing is now being linked to poor growth in children and also ADHD. It can lead to postural changes and spinal issues because when the tongue is in the wrong position, the head rests forward, causing the shoulders to round forward and slump. It creates poor oxygenation of the blood contributing to high blood pressure, heart problems and sleep apnea.
Orthodontics: Mouth breathing affects the position of our teeth and our bite, it creates weak lip with no external support for the teeth while the cheeks press in contributing to a narrow, constricted arch. This can cause problems with orthodontic treatment, making it more difficult to move the teeth into ideal position and also making relapse much for likely after braces are removed.
Unfortunately, the solution is not always as easy as just closing our mouths. Doing myofunctional therapy with us at The Open Airway & Breath Institute (often in conjunction with an airway screening by an ENT) can help to retrain a lifetime of habitually breathing incorrectly, improving both health and quality of life. And if begun early, it can help to prevent many of these problems from ever occurring in children.
We are Getting Involved with Mouth Breathing Awareness!
May is Mouth Breathing Awareness Month! Our RDH and Myofunctional Therapist Erin Ulman was interviewed by Sarah Hornsby, RDH, Myofunctional Therapist and founder of Myomentor – My Myofunctional Therapy Training Institute. They talk about the importance of getting a proper diagnosis and treatment for mouth breathing.
Please watch this video and let us know if you have any questions.
It used to be that the subject of tongue ties wasn’t something that was discussed much. If an infant didn’t have problems with breastfeeding and a toddler or child didn’t have issues with speech, then it wasn’t really on anyone’s radar. But now we are discovering that tongue ties are not quite as “black and white” as we used to think. We are discovering different “grades” of lingual restriction and a wide range of dysfunctions that can be associated with them. Modern medicine and dentistry are finding that the problems associated with tongue ties can affect both children and adults of all ages and releasing a tongue tie is now an integral part of achieving optimal oral and dental health.
So, what is a tongue tie anyway? A tongue tie is also known as a restricted lingual frenum or a tethered oral tissue (TOT). The frenum is a band of tissue under the tongue – we all have one. It connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth. In some people however, the frenum is too tight or too short and it can actually restrict the movement of the tongue as well as prevent it from resting in the correct place. Lips and cheeks can also be tied as well.
Why does this matter? Your tongue should fill up the entire roof of your 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. A tongue tie keeps your tongue in the bottom or your mouth. People who are tongue tied often mouth breathe, so they experience a variety of myofunctional problems and symptoms. Chronic jaw pain, facial pain, headaches, and clenching and grinding, along with dental and orthodontic issues are common in people with tongue ties. Studies show that children who are tongue tied are more likely to develop sleep apnea and airway issues.
What can be done? Most often, a tongue tie must be treated surgically. The procedure is called a frenectomy. It is a simple and fast procedure. It can be done by a dentist using a laser or scalpel. However, It is critical to begin therapy exercises before the procedure. Dr. Robin Steely, DDS and the team at The Open Airway & Breath Institute are a wonderful resource for this and working with them ahead of time will greatly contribute to a successful outcome. They will also guide you through wound care after the procedure. If the wound is not managed properly, it is possible that the tongue will reattach back the way it was before the frenectomy. The tongue and oral muscles will need to be retrained and strengthened after the frenum is released. Think of it just like any other surgery where rehabilitation is required. The muscles in the tongue have never learned to move or rest properly so in this case, myofunctional therapy is just like physical therapy, only for the mouth.
Sleep apnea used to be seen as a condition that affected older men, and the only way to deal with it was to wear and uncomfortable CPAP machine every night for the rest of your life. So most people didn’t worry too much about it. But scientists and doctors are finding that not only are sleep apnea and sleep disordered breathing far more widespread than we ever knew, but the health concerns around them are more alarming that we imagined. For example, did you know that sleep apnea in children is actually quite common? Or that is has been linked to a number of conditions including ADD, reduced IQ, developmental issues, and can even stunt a child’s growth?
Even people who seem the least likely to suffer from this condition, such as slender-framed, adult women are finding that they are candidates for developing sleep apnea, which is something no one would have suggested just a few years ago.
This news is slowly getting more mainstream attention. So you’ll find and increasing number of sleep specialist diagnosing and treating a new wave of patients. These sleep experts all have different approaches to treating sleep apnea – the CPAP machine is considered a preferred option, but a wide range of dental appliances and other therapies are also being introduced, both traditional and holistic.
A newly recognized and effective way to address and treat sleep apnea is myofunctional therapy—the type of therapy Dr. Robin Steely, DDS and the team offers here at The Open Airway & Breath Institute. This makes a lot of sense because in many cases, people who have weak and improperly functioning oral muscles also show signs and symptoms of sleep apnea. If you can strengthen those muscles, you can ease these symptoms. And something that myofunctional therapy does brilliantly is to strengthen and re-pattern muscles.
The only practitioners who can diagnose sleep apnea are medical doctors. So, this means that even a dentist who specializes in sleep dentistry can’t diagnose a patient with this condition. But they are very aware of the signs and symptoms and if they recognize them will always recommend that a patient have a sleep study done.
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