Breathing & Jaw Issues? Myofunctional Therapy Can Help.

Myofunctional therapy for jaw issues

The Tongue Has Many Functions Besides the Obvious

Have you ever stepped back for a moment and thought about the significant role that your tongue plays in your overall well-being? Indeed, you have thought of your taste buds since most of them are on your tongue. And, you’ve probably muttered a choice word or two if you have accidentally bitten your tongue while chewing. But beyond that, take a moment to consider your tongue’s importance. Your tongue plays a vital role in your ability to breathe, chew, and speak. So, if you are having trouble with any of those critical functions, chances are something isn’t quite right with your tongue. This is where myofunctional therapy might be able to help.

What is myofunctional therapy?

We know that you most likely have never heard of myofunctional therapy. That’s okay, and that’s where we can help. Myofunctional therapy is a form of physical therapy that can improve your breathing, bite, and tongue posture to benefit your oral health. The training focuses on your neck, face, and the soft tissues in your mouth to help the tongue find its best position and posture for oral rest. People with orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs) can benefit from this treatment, regardless of age.

Myofunctional therapy can help with the following health concerns:

  • Jaw problems (Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain)
  • Headaches
  • Gut problems such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or heartburn
  • Breathing/sleeping problems
  • Dental malocclusion/misalignment in some children

What types of exercises are used in myofunctional therapy?

The specific exercises used in this type of therapy will vary from patient to patient and is determined by age and the severity of OMD. The exercises aim to strengthen the oropharynx muscles (the part of the throat at the back of the mouth behind the oral cavity). When those muscles lack strength, air flow can be disrupted , leading to breathing issues and snoring. Further, if the tube collapses, it can lead to sleep apnea. To top it off, a weak tongue can fall back into the throat, creating a choking hazard.

If your doctor or dentist recommends myofunctional therapy, typical exercises will include the following.

  1. Push up the tongue against the hard palate on the roof of the mouth and hold for five seconds.
  2. Stick your tongue out of your mouth and touch the tip of your nose, holding it in place for ten seconds.
  3. Similar to what you did above, stick your tongue out but then try to lick as low on your chin as you can and hold the position in place for ten seconds.
  4. Stick your tongue out and move it as far to the left as you can, then hold the position for ten seconds.
  5. Stick your tongue out and move it as far to the right as you can, then hold the position for ten seconds.
  6. Try to roll your tongue by folding the edges toward the middle lengthwise. Stick your tongue out as far as you can while holding the taco position for a count of ten seconds.
  7. If folding your tongue is too challenging, try pushing the tip of your tongue against a spoon that you hold in front of your mouth. Push against the spoon for ten seconds, keeping your tongue straight without pointing it downwards.
  8. Try to hold a spoon with your tongue. Place the handle between your lips and hold the spoon for ten seconds. Do not use your teeth to hold the handle. Attempt to keep the spoon parallel to the floor.
  9. Click your tongue against the roof of your mouth 15 times.
  10. Tie a string to a button, then place the button between the teeth and lips, holding it tightly with the lips for ten seconds. This exercise is intended for adults and older children that are not at risk of swallowing the button.

How might my child or I benefit from myofunctional therapy?

If you or your child show the following signs of an OMD, seeking a professional to oversee and guide you on myofunctional therapy might be just what you need.

  • Malocclusion (misaligned teeth)
  • Sleep apnea 
  • Mouth breathing (breathing through your open mouth vs. your nose)
  • Snoring
  • Tongue thrusting
  • Teeth grinding
  • Speech problems 
  • Facial pain
  • Stomach aches
  • Headaches

Your family dentist in Chico, CA can guide you in your myofunctional therapy needs.

If you or someone you love is experiencing chewing, speaking, or breathing problems, the team at My Chico Dentist can help. There is a reason patients claim we are the best dental team, and we’d love the opportunity to show you why. Request an appointment with us today to discuss your potential OMD and the best path forward.

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