Did you know that simple exercises can help you breathe better, avoid jaw pain or headaches, and help your orthodontic results stay in place? Many of the common problems people seek treatment for at our office can be improved with exercises, known as myofunctional therapy. This includes sleep apnea, TMJ, orthodontic problems, and more. Burke, VA neuromuscular dentist Dr. Pamela Marzban works with a certified Orofacial Myofunctional Therapist (OMT) to provide myofunctional therapy for her patients.
If you want to learn how you can benefit from orofacial myofunctional therapy in Fairfax County, please call 703-323-8200 today for an appointment at the office of Dr. Marzban.
What Myofunctional Therapy Can Do
Myofunctional therapy is commonly used to treat what we describe as an orofacial myofunctional disorder (OMD). We understand that you might not be familiar with the name, but you probably recognize one or more of the symptoms:
- Difficulty chewing or eating
- Speech disorders
- Sleep disordered breathing
- Bruxism (clenching and grinding teeth)
- TMJ symptoms (jaw pain, headaches, and more)
- Orthodontic problems, including orthodontic relapse
- Mouth breathing
- Lips that don’t stay closed
There are many possible approaches to treating these problems, including myofunctional therapy. In some cases, myofunctional therapy can be used as the primary treatment for these conditions. Usually, though, it’s an adjunctive treatment, which is used to improve the results of other treatment.
Treatment is usually most effective when started early, but both children and adults can benefit from myofunctional therapy.
How Myofunctional Disorders Cause Your Symptoms
The muscles, bones, and teeth all develop together, and have to work together to provide optimal function and form. And as these structures develop, they influence related structures, such as the airway.
Development is a complex process in which function influences growth that creates form which in turn influences function. In an optimal system, all the natural demands you put on your jaw system will cause the jaw to develop into a robust system that is capable of performing all these demands in a healthy way. But if your muscles aren’t functioning optimally, they can influence the development of your teeth, jaws, and other structures in ways that lead to problems such as crooked or crowded teeth, obstructed airways, jaw clenching, painful muscles, and other problems.
How Myofunctional Therapy Works
The goal of myofunctional therapy is to retrain your muscles to function in a healthy way. This leads the muscles to become stronger so they can do their job better, and it helps them influence healthy development of your teeth, jaws, airway, and more.
During your comprehensive evaluation, we’ll look for OMDs, such as:
- Unhealthy tongue position
- Unhealthy jaw position
- Tongue thrusting
- Poor swallowing technique or function
Once we’ve determined the OMDs that contribute to your functional problems, we’ll design a personalized exercise routine to resolve them. We’ll teach you how to do the exercises, and then you’ll do the exercises for 6-12 months.
By this time you can see substantial improvement, and we’ll evaluate your results. Then we may decide whether you should keep doing the exercises, perform an altered routine, or maybe you can stop the exercises altogether, having achieved our treatment goals.
Sometimes people with tongue tie may benefit from getting it released, since this will make the exercises easier.
The Impact of Myofunctional Therapy on Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a health epidemic in our country, but we’re still trying to determine the best approach for treating it. Myofunctional therapy can be an important part of that optimal treatment.
Studies show that myofunctional therapy can reduce a person’s apnea/hypopnea index by about 50%. This isn’t an optimal standalone treatment, but it can dramatically improve the results of either CPAP or oral appliance therapy. Myofunctional therapy can also significantly reduce snoring–it may even be an optimal treatment for this problem.
How Myofunctional Therapy Improves TMJ
Retraining your jaw muscles is an essential goal of TMJ treatment. Part of this can be done with “hard” treatments, such as oral splints or even a full mouth reconstruction. But “soft” treatments focused on the muscles are also essential to provide optimal results. The use of TENS can remove muscle tension and help make the muscles receptive to learning new habits, but without proper training, they can sometimes fall back into old habits. That’s what myofunctional therapy can do: train jaw muscles in proper function so they foster healthy habits that in turn lead to less clenching and grinding, less pain, and less damage to teeth and joints.
How Myofunctional Therapy Protects against Orthodontic Relapse
Your teeth and jaw initially formed under the influence of your tongue, cheeks, and other muscles. When these influences lead to problems like crowded, gapped, or crooked teeth, orthodontics can help. Orthodontics can move your teeth into their desired positions, but it doesn’t do anything about the forces that initially caused them to be displaced.
A retainer can help hold your teeth in position, but even so, if you don’t do anything about the forces of your muscles, your teeth can be displaced again. Myofunctional therapy helps retrain the muscles so they’re no longer trying to push your teeth out of place. This will reduce your risk of relapse.