You may have heard of myofunctional therapy as treatment for children, but did you know that many adults benefit from this therapy as well? Many adults choose to undergo myofunctional therapy to correct problems that they’ve had since birth but never had addressed.
What Is Oral Myofunctional Therapy?
First, let’s talk about what oral myofunctional therapy is.
Myofunctional therapy focuses on the facial muscles and soft tissues in your mouth to help improve speech, swallowing, chewing and jaw function. It can be used to treat:
- Feeding problems or difficulty eating
- Swallowing problems or difficulty swallowing food
- Jaw pain or discomfort
- Speech problems such as stuttering or slurred speech
- Tongue thrusting (tongue thrust) when talking or during sleep
- Chewing difficulties
- Mouth breathing
- Facial muscle weakness
Oral myofunctional therapy can also be used to prevent these conditions, known as oral myofunctional disorders (OMDs), from occurring in the first place.
What Contributes to the Development of OMDs?
There are several factors that contribute to the development of OMDs, including:
- Birth defects
- Poor dental health
- Physical limitations and some medical conditions
- Inadequate nutrition
- Neurological issues
- Environmental toxins
- Malformation of facial structure
- Difficulty with tongue movement
The most common orofacial myofunctional disorders include:
- Tongue tie
- Sleep bruxism (tooth grinding/clenching)
- Sticky saliva
- Difficulty with tongue movement
- Poor oral rest posture
- Food impaction
- Jaw clenching or grinding
- Tongue-thrusting while sleeping
Long-Term Consequences of Untreated OMDs
If the conditions we mentioned above are not treated, there are long-term consequences, including:
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Mouth sores
- Bad breath
- Tooth pain
- Loss of bone density
- Delayed growth
Additional consequences include poor posture, neck pain, shoulder pain, headaches, stress, anxiety, depression and more. Another potential consequence of an untreated oral myofunctional disorder is sleep breathing disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing stops during sleep when the soft tissues of the throat collapse and block the airway.
Obstructive sleep apnea is common among adults, with estimates ranging between 5 and 20 percent of the population being affected. The National Institutes of Health reports that up to 40 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, and it has been estimated that one out of every 10 people will develop some form of sleep apnea at some point in their lives.
How Does Oral Myofunctional Therapy Help Treat OMDs?
The goal of oral myofunctional therapy is to teach patients how to use their tongue, lips, cheeks and jaw properly so they can eat, drink, chew, swallow, speak and breathe more easily. It can also help to bring about proper tongue posture and reduce chronic mouth breathing.
Oral myofunctional therapy uses exercises to strengthen muscles and improve coordination of these muscles. This helps prevent future problems with feeding and swallowing by teaching patients how to move correctly when eating or drinking.
Examples of Adult Oral Myofunctional Therapy Exercises
Here are some examples of exercise techniques that can be done at home to help improve your ability to eat and drink. You can practice these actions on your own:
- Lip closure
- Sucking and blowing
- Chewing and swallowing
- Tongue movements
- Tongue placement
- Tongue release
- Tongue protrusion
- Tongue elevation
- Tongue depression
- Tongue rolling
- Tongue scraping
- Tongue flicking
Who Can Benefit From Myofunctional Therapy Treatment?
As we mentioned, in many cases, OMDs are identified in children, especially in this age of modern dentistry. But what happens if you have one of these conditions and it wasn’t treated when you were younger?
It’s not too late! You can start myofunctional therapy as an adult. Thousands of adults choose oral myofunctional therapy each year to treat previously untreated OMDs.
Why Choose Myofunctional Therapy as an Adult?
When you’re young, you may think you don’t need treatment for OMDs because you never realized you had experienced the symptoms. However, once you reach adulthood, you’ll realize that OMDs can cause serious problems in your life. For example, if you have trouble chewing or swallowing food, then you won’t be able to enjoy meals with friends and family. If you have difficulty speaking clearly, then you might miss out on important conversations. And if you have bad breath, you might avoid social situations altogether. These problems will affect your quality of life. So, why keep waiting to get treatment?
How Long Does Myofunctional Therapy for Adults Take?
Myofunctional therapy is usually performed over several sessions lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes per session. The length of time depends on the severity of the problem and the patient’s needs. Some people only need a few short sessions; others require longer treatments. As always, our team will work closely with you to determine the best course of action and what will work for you.
Is Myofunctional Therapy Combined With Other Treatment Options?
Sometimes, yes! In fact, most of our patients who receive myofunctional therapy go through this treatment along with orthodontic treatments and physical therapy.
Want to learn more about myofunctional therapy for adults? Call us today to schedule a consultation.