Over the course of a year, I get contacted by patients from all over the world. They range from children to senior citizens, and they’re all looking for help with a wide variety of myofunctional issues.
It would take a long time to cover all the possible conditions and symptoms that I see, but at the end of the day, I tell all my patients that I have four specific goals for their treatment. If they can master these four things, they’ll get the results they’re looking for.
The Four Goals are:
- Nasal breathing
- Lip seal
- Proper tongue posture
- Correct swallowing pattern
When you first think about these goals, they don’t sound too difficult. After all, how hard can it be to breathe through your nose, close your mouth, and put your tongue in the right place? And who has trouble swallowing?
I wish it was that simple but as many of my patients would agree, it’s actually much harder than it sounds. Let me put it this way – if it was actually easy for everyone to do those four things, then I wouldn’t have a job.
One of the main goals should be to be able to relax and enjoy life without the health problems caused by oral myofunctional issues.
Habits Are Tough To Break
An open mouth habit with a low resting tongue often starts when we’re young. Childhood allergies, colds and congestion make it difficult to breathe through the nose, so we’re forced to breathe through the mouth. Once this habit sets in, it can be there for life because the muscles of the face and tongue never learn to function correctly.
For example, let’s look at the tongue. Instead of the tongue being in the correct place (in the top of the mouth), it will rest low and tend to push forward when swallowing – known as a tongue thrust swallowing pattern. This will cause a loss of muscle tone in the intrinsic muscles of the tongue, which in turn can lead to all kind of problems ranging from digestive issues to teeth movement. When the tongue rests low, the lips are usually parted, which can in turn lead to serious health concerns like sleep apnea and ADHD, as well as dramatically changing the shape of the face (see this recent article for more on the effects of an open mouth on appearance).
Many of my patients, both adults and children, have been dealing with symptoms of an open mouth for most of their lives. Fortunately, the exercises I prescribe in my programs are designed to address this by considering my four goals of myofunctional therapy.
But the exercises are only half the story. It’s entirely possible to do all of the exercises exactly as prescribed and not get the expected results. This is why teaching awareness is such a big part of my programs. Learning to be mindful of things like the position of the tongue or if the mouth is open makes all the difference.
When you combine the exercises with the awareness training, well, in my experience, the results are almost always excellent.
Every patient is different, so some will need a longer program, but many of my patients get great results in as little as 12 sessions. Initially, we meet once per week for the first eight weeks, and after that depending on progress, we’ll meet every second week.
If you’d like to find out more about how my therapy programs and the Four Goals Of Myofunctional Therapy can help you, I’d be happy to meet on Skype for a free 30-minute assessment. Please contact me here and we can set up an appointment.