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Myofunctional Therapy and the Orthodontist

In the world of dentistry and orthodontics, the most recognized myofunctional problem is called a tongue thrust. A tongue thrust occurs when the muscles of the tongue, lips, and cheeks have developed incorrect functioning patterns for swallowing, chewing, speaking, and even while in a resting posture.

It is easy to detect a tongue thrust in many patients because the tongue will usually rest between or against the teeth. Many times, an open bite will be present, and the lips will rest apart. Patients who “mouth breathe” are also tongue-thrusters. These two symptoms are one in the same.

A tongue thrust and open mouth posture can have a negative influence on the dental structures, and can contribute to malocclusion. Growth of the manible is changed when the mouth is always open. The maxilla develops narrower and higher because the tongue is not resting up, to act as a natural expander and retainer.  If a thumbsucking habit is involved, a posterior crossbite is common as well.

When a tongue thrust is present, this creates a very unstable environment for orthodontic treatment to take place. All dental professionals recognize the incredible forces involved in moving teeth with braces to create a healthy, beautiful smile.  It is easy to see how these same forces, when applied by the tongue and other structures can eventually cause problems.

A tongue thrust can slow orthodontic treatment time, make it more difficult to close spaces, and increases the chance of relapse after the braces are removed. Myofunctional Therapy is designed to “tame the tongue” by teaching a patient how to use the muscles in different ways. It is a very simple treatment that can have a very big impact!

Tongue Thrust

When a patient has a tongue thrust the symptoms are generally easy to recognize, especially in young children. As children get older they often learn to adapt to their symptoms and the signs can become less obvious by adulthood.  However, even if the symptoms are less obvious the underlying muscular problem still exists.

A brief list of symptoms is provided below:

  • Anterior or lateral open bite
  • High, narrow palate
  • Open mouth resting posture / mouth breather
  • History of orthodontic relapse
  • History of thumb or finger sucking habit
  • Chronic nasal congestion, allergies, or problems related to tonsils and/or adenoids (general airway or breathing concerns, present or past)

How Myofunctional Therapy Can Help

  • Greatly reduces chances of relapse after braces are removed/ increases retention
  • Promotes lip seal
  • Provides a stable environment for orthodontic treatment to take place
  • No cribs or other sharp habit appliances needed
  • No opposing muscular forces to interfere with or prolong treatment time
  • Keeps open bites closed

Working With a Myofunctional Therapist

A Myofunctional Therapist is trained in the identification, diagnosis, and treatment of tongue thrust and its related problems.

Treatment is designed to help patients develop awareness of appropriate musculature and establish normal patterns for the muscles. The therapy tones and trains the muscles to work in harmony. It corrects the swallow and resting posture of the tongue and mouth.

Myofunctional Therapy is based on habit formation and making a new mind-to-body connection through muscle memory.  The goal is to form new habits that will last a lifetime.

Myofunctional therapy can be completed prior to, or during orthodontic treatment for the best results. However, it can also be done after braces are removed to help promote retention. Therapy can begin at any age, as long as the patient is ready. Early identification and treatment is best because normal dental growth is encouraged earlier on, and incorrect habits are less engrained.

Myofunctional Therapists also work with children (and adults) to help stop thumb and finger sucking habits.  These habits can contribute to or cause Myofunctional problems, malocclusion, and other dental and health concerns.

Contact Sarah today to learn how you can work with her to help treat your patients!



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