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How Myofunctional Therapy Can Improve Your Child's Health

Updated: May 4

In children, myofunctional therapy targets improper oral habits like tongue thrusting during swallowing. By retraining muscle patterns through orofacial myofunctional exercises and tongue exercises for sleep apnea, it aims to restore nasal breathing, improve tongue posture, and eliminate snoring or sleep apnea symptoms. Especially for pediatric dentistry, this complementary treatment offers long-term benefits beyond traditional orthodontics.



Understanding Myofunctional Disorders

Myofunctional disorders, also known as orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs), are abnormal movement patterns of the face and mouth that can interfere with normal growth and development. These disorders can cause problems with talking, swallowing, and breathing through the nose. One common type of OMD is tongue thrusting or fronting, where a child pushes out their tongue when talking, drinking, or eating.


Signs and Causes

Common signs and symptoms of OMDs include:

  1. Breathing through the mouth

  2. Limited tongue movement

  3. Messy or difficult eating

  4. Dental problems

  5. Difficulty saying certain sounds

Causes of OMDs can include blocked nasal passages, anything that causes the tongue to be misplaced at rest, and sucking or chewing habits past the age of 3 years.

Dentists, orthodontists, doctors, and speech-language pathologists (SLPs) may be involved in testing for and treating OMDs. SLPs can help children with OMDs by working on mouth and facial movements, speech clarity, chewing and swallowing, and breathing patterns.


Benefits of Myo Munchee for kids

Myofunctional therapy offers numerous benefits for children, addressing various orofacial muscle dysfunctions that can impact their overall health and development.


Improved Facial Appearance and Straighter Teeth

One of the primary advantages of myofunctional therapy is its ability to improve facial appearance and promote straighter teeth. By correcting tongue positioning and muscle patterns, it can help guide proper jaw growth and alignment, potentially reducing the need for extensive orthodontic treatment.


Expanded Airways and Better Breathing

Children with myofunctional disorders often experience airway obstruction, leading to mouth breathing and sleep-disordered breathing. Myofunctional therapy exercises aim to retrain the muscles involved in swallowing and breathing, promoting nasal breathing and reducing the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.


Increased Jaw Mobility and Reduced Muscle Tension

Myofunctional therapy exercises target the muscles of the face, tongue, and jaw, improving their strength and coordination. This can lead to increased jaw mobility, reduced tension in the jaw muscles, and improved overall muscle function, benefiting activities like chewing and speaking.


Better Quality of Sleep

By addressing issues like mouth breathing and sleep-disordered breathing, myofunctional therapy can significantly improve a child's quality of sleep. Proper nasal breathing and reduced airway obstruction can lead to more restful sleep, positively impacting overall health and cognitive development.



Myofunctional Therapy Exercises

Myofunctional therapy employs a range of exercises and techniques to retrain the muscles of the face, tongue, and jaw. These exercises aim to strengthen and coordinate the orofacial muscles, promoting proper oral posture and function.


Key Exercises

  1. Tongue Push-Ups: Place the tongue against the roof of the mouth (hard palate) and gently push upwards, holding for a few seconds before releasing. This exercise strengthens the tongue muscles.

  2. Vowel Practice: Sustain vowel sounds like "ah," "ee," and "oh" while maintaining proper tongue positioning. This exercise improves tongue control and coordination.

  3. Tongue Clicking: Place the tongue behind the front teeth and release it quickly, creating a clicking sound. This exercise enhances tongue mobility and precision.

  4. Nose Touch: Extend the tongue and touch the tip of the nose, then retract it back into the mouth. This exercise improves tongue extension and control.

  5. Chin Touch: Similar to the nose touch, extend the tongue to touch the chin, then retract it back into the mouth.

  6. Tongue Slide: Move the tongue from one corner of the mouth to the other, sliding it along the gum line. This exercise promotes lateral tongue movement.

  7. Tongue Stretch: Stick out the tongue as far as possible, then retract it back into the mouth. This exercise stretches and strengthens the tongue muscles.

  8. Nasal Breathing: Practice breathing solely through the nose, keeping the mouth closed. This exercise promotes nasal breathing and proper oral posture.

These exercises should be prescribed and demonstrated by a qualified myofunctional therapist, who will tailor the routine to the individual's needs and provide guidance on proper technique and repetitions.


Implementing Myofunctional Therapy

Implementing myofunctional therapy for children requires a tailored approach based on their age, specific needs, and ability to participate in the exercises. Here are some key considerations:


Age-Appropriate Approach:

  • For children under 4-5 years old, the 'Mini Myo' program is recommended, focusing on guiding parents on the right steps and exercises.

  • Simple exercises can be introduced for 4-5 year olds, but an in-depth program is not advisable at this age.

  • Older children can participate in more comprehensive myofunctional therapy programs. Addressing Underlying Causes:

  • Before starting myofunctional therapy, it's crucial to identify and address any underlying causes contributing to the child's condition.

  • For instance, if a 3-year-old is mouth breathing, consulting an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist) to evaluate potential obstructions like enlarged tonsils or adenoids is recommended. Multidisciplinary Approach:

  • Implementing myofunctional therapy often involves a team effort, including:

  • Myofunctional therapists

  • Pediatric dentists

  • Orthodontists

  • Speech-language pathologists Early Intervention:

  • Connecting with an early intervention orthodontist can be beneficial for children aged 4-5 years, as they can guide proper jaw growth and development from an early age.


Individualized Treatment Plan:

  • The approach to myofunctional therapy is highly individualized, considering factors such as the child's age, specific symptoms, family dynamics, and ability to participate in the exercises.


Parental Involvement:

  • Parental involvement is crucial, as they play a significant role in reinforcing the exercises and techniques at home.

  • Older siblings undergoing myofunctional therapy can positively influence a younger child's participation and progress.


Compliance and Consistency:

  • Consistent practice and compliance with the prescribed exercises are essential for achieving optimal results from myofunctional therapy.


By considering these factors and working closely with healthcare professionals, parents can effectively implement myofunctional therapy to address their child's orofacial muscle dysfunctions and promote overall health and development.


Conclusion

Myofunctional therapy offers a comprehensive approach to addressing orofacial muscle dysfunctions in children. By retraining the muscles involved in swallowing, breathing, and speech, it promotes proper oral posture, nasal breathing, and improved craniofacial development. The benefits extend beyond straighter teeth and improved facial appearance, encompassing better sleep quality, expanded airways, and increased jaw mobility. Candidates for myofunctional therapy include children with conditions like mouth breathing, obstructive sleep apnea, tongue thrusting, and other orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs). In the realm of pediatric dentistry, orofacial myofunctional therapy plays a crucial role in guiding proper jaw growth, potentially reducing the need for extensive orthodontic treatment in the future.


Myofunctional therapy can be particularly beneficial for children on the autism spectrum, as it helps address sensory processing issues and improves muscle coordination, leading to better communication and overall function. With early intervention and a multidisciplinary approach involving myofunctional therapists, pediatric dentists, orthodontists, and speech-language pathologists, parents can effectively implement this holistic treatment for their children.


If you have any additional questions about your child's dental health or want to learn more about Urbana Pediatric Dentistry and its services, please feel free to visit their About Us page, or contact them. You can also follow them on social media on Instagram @urbanapediatricdentistry and Facebook @urbanapediatricdentistry for more tips and information.


FAQs

1. How successful is myofunctional therapy in treating oral functions?Myofunctional therapy has been demonstrated to be 80-90% effective in correcting issues like rest posture, swallowing, and other oral functions. Impressively, the benefits of this therapy have been shown to persist for years after the therapy has concluded.

2. What does tongue thrusting mean in children?Tongue thrusting, also known as reverse or immature swallowing, occurs when children habitually push their tongue forward against their lips during swallowing. This repeated action can exert pressure on the upper front teeth, potentially leading to misalignment over time.

3. What is the primary objective of myofunctional therapy?The main aim of myofunctional therapy is to enhance functions related to talking, eating, and breathing. Additionally, it has been identified as a potentially effective treatment for sleep-disordered breathing, a condition characterized by reduced airflow through the upper airways during sleep.

4. Can you describe the four tongue thrust exercises used in therapy?The four key exercises for tongue thrusting are summarized by the acronym "4S": Spot, Salivate, Squeeze, and Swallow. The process involves positioning the tongue at the "Spot" just behind the maxillary incisors, holding it there to induce salivation, squeezing the spot, and finally swallowing while keeping the teeth together and maintaining the tongue's position.

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