How Myofunctional Therapy in Columbus, OH Can Help

Myofunctional therapy focuses on treating orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs). Most people with OMDs aren’t formally diagnosed with the condition, but may be familiar with the symptoms they experience, including:

  • Difficulty biting or chewing
  • Speech challenges
  • Sleep disordered breathing (snoring, sleep apnea, UARS)
  • Bruxism (clenching and grinding teeth)
  • TMJ symptoms (jaw pain, headaches, ear symptoms)
  • Orthodontic problems, including relapse
  • Lips that don’t close over the teeth
  • Mouth breathing

There are many treatment approaches for these conditions. Often, these are addressed individually as separate conditions, but closer examination reveals that they’re closely related and may be treated with a single treatment approach.

beautiful woman walking down a street with a smile on her face

What Causes OMDs

In your jaw, form and function are closely related. A certain form leads to a certain function, which, in turn, alters or reinforces the form.

OMDs occur when the motions of your tongue, cheeks, and jaw influence development of the structures such that they aren’t able to function properly. In compensating, your body worsens development, leading to a condition that grows increasingly serious.

Let’s consider restricted breathing related to a narrow palate, for example: With a narrow palate, it’s hard to get enough air through the nose, so people can start breathing through their mouth to compensate. But mouth breathing puts the tongue in a position where it doesn’t stimulate the palate to grow, so the palate remains narrow or may even grow narrower relative to a person’s overall size.

How Myofunctional Therapy Works

Myofunctional therapy works by retraining the jaw, cheek, and tongue muscles into healthy habits. These healthy habits in turn reshape the teeth, jaws, and related structures into healthy forms. These healthy forms support healthy function, so you can reduce or eliminate the symptoms of your OMDs.

In myofunctional therapy, you will learn to avoid bad habits like:

  • Unhealthy jaw position
  • Unhealthy tongue position
  • Tongue thrusting
  • Biting and chewing nonfoods
  • Poor swallowing technique or limited function

We will replace these unhealthy habits with habits that are healthy and encourage further development of the jaws, airways, and teeth.

We will teach you exercises that can retrain your muscles. The exercise routine is custom-designed for you and usually only takes a few minutes. It may also involve the short-term use of an oral appliance, sometimes for just a few minutes each day as you do the exercises.  

A typical course of exercises lasts 6-12 months. At that point, we’ll evaluate your progress. We may recommend changes to your routine. We may also encourage you to keep doing the exercises as directed. Other times, we may find that your myofunctional therapy has achieved its goals so you can reduce down to a maintenance level, just enough to keep bad habits from returning.

Myofunctional Therapy Can Help Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway collapses during sleep. This is made more likely if your airway is narrow because of underdevelopment of your jaw and/or palate. It’s also more likely if your tongue, cheek, and throat muscles are weak and unable to keep the airway open.

Myofunctional therapy improves sleep apnea in two ways. First, it encourages the development of the upper and lower jaws, which expands the airway. Next, it strengthens the muscles that keep the airway open, so they’ll do a better job of holding it open at night. As a results, myofunctional therapy can reduce a person’s apnea/hypopnea index (AHI) by as much as 50%, making it a great supporting therapy for oral appliances or other treatments.

How Myofunctional Therapy Can Improve TMJ

Part of the goal of TMJ treatment is retraining your jaw muscles so they function properly without adverse stress on them or on your teeth and joints. Often, we approach this with “hard” treatments that force your jaw into a relaxed position. Oral splints and full mouth reconstruction both take this approach, and it can be very effective.

But “soft” treatments for TMJ are also vital for success. Relaxing muscles with TENS, for example, helps muscles lose their habitual tension. But myofunctional therapy also helps by ensuring old habits don’t return and cause the same problems again.

Myofunctional Therapy and Orthodontics

One important part of development is enlarging the jaw sufficiently so that all the teeth can be straight and uncrowded. The size of the dental arch is determined in large part by pressures from the tongue, cheeks, and jaw muscles.

If there’s not enough pressure to develop the dental arch, teeth are crowded, crooked, and rotated to try to fit in the space available. Orthodontic approaches like braces or Invisalign solve the problem by supplementing the forces provided by the muscles. The jaw develops and teeth find their place.

However, the forces that initially led to crooked teeth are still impacting the movement of teeth. Unless healthy habits replace old motions, the teeth may move back to their old positions, known as orthodontic relapse. Orthodontic relapse is normally prevented with retainers, but myofunctional therapy can help. It’s also more comfortable than a retainer and won’t get lost.

Will You Benefit from Myofunctional Therapy?

If you have one or more symptoms that myofunctional therapy can improve, you should consider it. The therapy is non-invasive and easy. We can start it today.

To learn whether myofunctional therapy in Columbus, OH is right for you, please call (614) 848-5001 today for an appointment with a myofunctional therapist at Firouzian Dentistry.