A question that comes up often in my practice is: “What is the point of myofunctional therapy, and why would I need to do it?”
It’s a good question, and my answer is always “Prevention.”
If you are a child who mouth breathes, and you grow into an adult with your mouth open and your tongue resting in the bottom of your mouth, your face will grow differently than if you are a child who grows into an adult with your mouth closed and your tongue in the right place.
It really is that big of a deal.
In children, we can actually change the growth of their face – their teeth, their jaws, and their entire skull by changing their habits as they grow into adults.
So when parents contact me because they see that their kids are mouth breathing, I really encourage them to do whatever they can to change that and prevent future health problems.
Myofunctional Therapy and Adults
So why would myofunctional therapy matter to an adult?
Well, if you grew up with your mouth open, you will have grown up to be an adult who is more likely to have sleep apnea and to snore. You’re also more likely to have chronic jaw pain and headaches, and the chances are higher that you’ll have dental issues, postural problems, and other health conditions.
Young people in their late teens or early twenties often contact me. They’re just starting to notice the effects of a mouth breathing habit when they were children. They sometimes want to know what will happen if they don’t do the therapy, or even if they just ignore it and don’t do anything at all.
The answer to that question is that I really don’t know.
There’s no way for me to predict exactly what will happen with anyone’s body in the future. But I can tell you that the adults I see who are in their thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, and older (my oldest patient is in her seventies) wish that they had known about, and treated these oral myofunctional issues years before.
The reality is that these problems accumulate over time. The symptoms are subtle, and it’s possible to not even know that they’re there. People don’t just wake up one day and find they suddenly have sleep apnea. That situation has been slowly getting worse over years and decades.
But eventually, the symptoms get bad enough that they lead to bigger problems and develop into serious health concerns. At this point, these people start trying to find the root cause of their problems, and they realize that it all comes down to the fact that they’ve been breathing through their mouth for their entire life.
If they’d known about, and been able to address the mouth breathing and the associated oral issues, they would not be in such a tough situation. I see this on a daily basis with the patients in my practice.
It’s Never Too Late To Do Myofunctional Therapy
I always point out that our bodies aren’t static. We’re not solid beings made of concrete or steel. Our bone cells and structures are constantly regenerating and remodeling, which is a very good thing. However, that change can be good for you, or it can be bad for you.
Your craniofacial structure is going to be changing for the better if you’re breathing through your nose, your tongue is on the roof of your mouth, and your lips are together during the day and night. Basically, your bone will be shaping and remodeling in a positive direction.
But if you have your mouth open during the day or night, with your tongue resting in the bottom of your mouth, perhaps because you have a tongue thrust or a tongue-tie, you’re going to be progressively getting worse.
You Can Change For The Better
I’m not trying to be the bearer of bad news or to sound overly negative, I’ve been through this myself, and so I’m speaking from personal experience.
I’m somebody who has myofunctional issues. I was a mouth breather as a child and that affected my facial growth and development. I only became aware of this when I was 24, but I’ve managed to make some big changes since then.
My breathing has changed substantially and now I only breathe through my nose – day and night. There have also been huge changes in my posture, teeth, and facial structure.
If I look back at pictures of myself from ten years ago, I look completely different from the way I do now because I’ve changed my habits. As I’ve aged, my bone has remodeled around these new habits. So my health has been changing for the better and continues to do so.
I wish everybody realized this simple fact – your face is going to change one way or another, no matter what.
You can change for the better, or you can change for the worse.
So, the moral of the story is that you should definitely do something to change your breathing and your posture.
There’s lots of great approaches you can take. There’s orthodontic or orthotropic treatment. There are excellent oral appliances such as the ALF or the DNA. You could do the Buteyko breathing method, and of course, you can do myofunctional therapy.
Whatever you choose to do, whatever modality you use, you need to make sure that you’re achieving my Four Goals of Myofunctional Therapy, which are:
- Nasal breathing
- Lip seal
- Proper tongue posture
- Correct swallowing pattern
If you can master these four goals, you’ll get great results and will definitely be changing your face, and your health, for the better.