Oral Myofacial Therapy—A Breakthrough Technique to Treat Symptoms Relating to Breathing Problems



Orofacial myofunctional therapy is a profoundly useful treatment that may help treat the symptoms of a a wide variety of health issues, from opening airways to headaches, temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), to poor digestion, just to name a few. It may be the most profound therapy available for the treatment of mild to moderate sleep apnea, which is a pervasive problem that affects many. Myofunctional therapy is the "neuromuscular re-education or re-patterning of the oral and facial muscles1." The therapy includes facial and tongue exercises and behavior modification techniques to promote proper tongue position, improved breathing, chewing, and swallowing. Proper head and neck postures are also addressed. There are good studies to substantiate that it may resolve jaw problems and orthodontic relapse working in a multi-disciplinary team. It may also be an alternative or adjunctive treatment to facial plastic surgery, to help get rid of lines and saggy facial muscles, which is exciting. In fact, in Brazil, some myofunctional therapists work with plastic surgeons. Joy Moeller, whom I had the good fortune of meeting as a result of an earlier interview with Carol Vander-Stoep (author of the book Mouth Matters), is a leading expert in this form of therapy in the US. At the end of that interview with Carol, we discussed the issue of being "tongue tied," and she happened to look into my mouth. A large population of Americans are estimated to have health problems related to poor orofacial function, and the vast majority have no idea their problems stem from the dysfunction of their mouth (primarily the tongue), breathing habit, and forward head and neck muscle function. Turns out I was one of them. As a result, I got on a treatment plan with Joy, who is the premier expert on myofunctional therapy in the US. We've been doing regular Skype sessions for about the last six months, and not only am I making great progress in resolving my tongue tie, it's had a profoundly beneficial effect on my posture and amount of deep sleep as well. Of course, adult problems associated with tongue-tie are best prevented in infancy beginning with ensuring the normal duration of breastfeeding. However, tongue-tie often goes undetected by OBGYNs and pediatricians who, having been educated in a bottle-feeding culture, fail to connect the related breastfeeding issues. When feeding issues are present, such as recurring maternal pain, thrush or mastitis, poor latch, inefficient emptying of the breast, poor infant growth, reflux, sensory issues, poor gut function and poor sleep, it is best to immediately contact an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) who can do an assessment and direct you to resources for proper revision (using laser or scissors) and supportive structural therapy.

Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy Gaining Popularity

In Brazil, a country that has really embraced this therapy and applies it in a number of medical fields, there are more than 20 universities doing PhD level research in orofacial myofunctional therapy. In the US, it's currently a post-graduate course. Fortunately, it is gaining in popularity, and according to Joy, this year there will be a big push to get more dental hygienists, speech pathologists, and physical therapists to adopt the technique. Stanford School of Medicine has just come out with compelling research this year. In addition to teaching with the Academy of Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (AOMT) and practicing for nearly 35 years, Joy has authored 15 articles, a children's book called Tucker the Tongue Finds His Spot, and is currently writing chapters for two textbooks. Joy encountered myofunctional therapy 35 years ago, as a result of tirelessly seeking to resolve the many health problems her young son was experiencing. At the time, she was a dental hygienist, and the dentist she worked with had taken a course in the field. "My son had many problems. He was born through a breech birth. He had severe colic as a baby. He couldn't latch on. He was bottle-fed and had a pacifier and a sippy cup," she says."By the time he was three, he had severe ADHD, and he couldn't breathe easily. He was breathing through his mouth. He had failure to thrive. He wasn't chewing his food properly. Everything had to be liquid or soft in order for him to eat it. By the time he was seven or eight, he had severe headaches. His headaches were so bad that he couldn't go to school." She sought help from numerous doctors, from psychologists, neurologists, to vision therapists. One doctor even suggested brain surgery. Fortunately, her dentist employer finally asked to have a look at the boy and discovered his tongue placement was incorrect. "So, we started doing these exercises," she says. "Within three weeks, his headaches stopped completely. "

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