Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy: Enhancing Craniofacial Function for Better Health

Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (OMT) is a specialized therapeutic approach that focuses on the re-education of the muscles and functions of the face and mouth. Through a series of neurological re-education exercises, OMT aims to improve various craniofacial functions such as breathing, chewing, swallowing, and the positioning of the lips, tongue, and cheeks. This therapy is crucial in addressing and correcting myofunctional disorders that can have a profound impact on overall health and well-being.

The Importance of Proper Breathing

Breathing is a fundamental physiological process that should ideally be done through the nose. However, studies have shown that approximately 50% of children breathe through their mouths. This maladaptive breathing pattern can be exacerbated by stress, leading to overbreathing and reliance on mouth breathing.

Consequences of Mouth Breathing

When individualsm breathe through their mouths, it often indicates that their tongue is not resting in the correct position. The ideal resting position for the tongue is against the roof of the mouth, which helps in the proper development of the palate. When the tongue is not in this position, the palate can become narrow, leading to several issues:

  1. Poor Sleep Quality: A narrow palate can contribute to obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep disorders, making it difficult to achieve deep, restorative sleep stages.
  2. Dental Problems: Teeth may not come in straight, and there can be improper alignment of the upper and lower teeth.
  3. Increased Stress Response: Mouth breathing often triggers the sympathetic nervous system (the "fight or flight" system), which can lead to heightened stress and anxiety.
  4. Fatigue and Poor Concentration: Without adequate deep sleep, individuals may experience chronic fatigue, poor concentration, and memory issues.
  5. Jaw pain: as individuals aren't stabilizing the joint.

OMT and Breathing Retraining

OMT exercises are designed to correct mouth breathing by promoting nasal breathing. Here are some key components of this retraining:

  • Breathing Exercises: Techniques that encourage inhaling and exhaling through the nose, which helps in maintaining a relaxed state and ensures better oxygenation of the body.
  • Tongue Posture: Exercises that train the tongue to rest against the roof of the mouth, supporting the proper development of the palate and airway.

Chewing and Swallowing

Proper chewing and swallowing are essential for sleep quality, digestion and overall health. OMT addresses issues such as:

  • Chewing Patterns: Exercises that enhance the strength and coordination of the jaw muscles, promoting efficient chewing.
  • Swallowing Techniques: Training that ensures the tongue and throat muscles work correctly, this can help decrease apneic events.

Position of Lips, Tongue, and Cheeks

The resting position of the lips, tongue, and cheeks plays a significant role in facial development and function. OMT includes exercises to:

  • Lips: Encourage the lips to stay closed during rest, preventing mouth breathing.
  • Tongue: Train the tongue to maintain its position against the palate, aiding in proper oral and facial development.
  • Cheeks: Strengthen the muscles of the cheeks to support overall facial structure and function.

The Benefits of OMT

By addressing these fundamental aspects of craniofacial function, OMT provides numerous benefits, including:

  • Improved Sleep Quality: Promoting nasal breathing and proper tongue posture helps in achieving deeper, more restorative sleep.
  • Enhanced Dental Health: Helps for proper development of teeth positioning and helps to maintain your teeth after orthodontic work
  • Reduced Stress and Anxiety: Encouraging nasal breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system (the "rest and digest" system), promoting relaxation and reducing stress.
  • Better Concentration and Memory: With improved sleep and reduced stress, individuals experience better cognitive function.

In conclusion, Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy is a powerful tool in enhancing craniofacial functions and overall health. By focusing on correct breathing, chewing, swallowing, and the positioning of the lips, tongue, and cheeks, OMT helps to address and prevent the negative consequences of myofunctional disorders. If you or your child are experiencing issues related to mouth breathing, poor sleep, or dental misalignment, book an assessment to see if we can help you.