The study of the ways the muscles of the mouth and face function is called orofacial myology. If there are dysfunctions, the treatment to correct these is called orofacial myofunctional therapy.
Orofacial dysfunctions may include:
- Mouth breathing
- Atypical swallow
- Overactivity of the muscles of the face
- Low tongue posture
- Tongue thrusting
- Open mouth posture
- Incompetent lip seal
Orofacial myofunctional therapy can help to correct these dysfunctions, to assist in the management of associated conditions. The therapy involves exercises for the muscles of the mouth and face, along with using various tools, under the guidance of one of our orofacial myofunctional therapists.
Basically, it is like going to the gym for your mouth and face: exercises, tools (gym equipment), and a dedicated therapist (personal trainer).
At The Myofunctional Centre, we follow the MyofocusTM Protocols and implement the MyofocusTM Take Off Algorithm as our preferred method of orofacial myofunctional therapy. The algorithm involves classifying orofacial dysfunctions into four categories, or codes, to generate an appropriate prescription of exercises for every patient and every visit. Currently there are over 170 different prescriptions, consisting of 5 to 7 exercises in each.
Research suggest that it takes at least two months to change a habit. Because most of orofacial dysfunctions are neurologically driven, they are usually habitual. Hence, the MyofocusTM Take Off Program takes at least 8 weeks with visits being weekly and no more than fortnightly in between.
Some of the tools that may be used during therapy can include the Myospots, MyoMunchee, Lip Trainer and others. These tools compliment the exercises, and are designed to be challenging, motivating and also fun, especially for the younger patients.
We also use orofacial myofunctional therapy heavily in our orofacial myofunctional pre-orthodontic treatment, where the improved functions of the muscles of the mouth and face are utilised to naturally develop the jaws. In this situation, specifically designed tools are also used, such as the Myobrace and/or Healthy Start.
How can orofacial myofunctional therapy help in the treatment of snoring and sleep apnoea?
With snoring and sleep apnoea, the tongue may be the cause of the upper airway being narrowed. When the tongue is low toned and/or low in posture, it is easier to fall backward into the airway, causing snoring that can result in sleep apnoea. Research indicate that orofacial myofunctional therapy can strengthen the tongue and correct the elevation to rest and function up against the palate (roof of the mouth), along with improving the tone of the muscles at the back of the mouth, leading to maintaining the upper airway patency that can improve the outcome of the treatment of snoring and sleep apnoea by 50% to 92%.
Is orofacial myofunctional therapy needed for the management of tongue tie and lip tie?
Tongue tie and lip tie are usually formed at 12 weeks in utero (in the tummy). For older children and adults, this means the muscles of the mouth and face have been dysfunctional for longer due to being restricted by these oral ties since then. Releasing the oral ties without orofacial myofunctional therapy may increase the risk of the ties growing back, because the body is so used to functioning with them present. To minimize the risk, orofacial myofunctional therapy exercises are prescribed prehabilitatively over at least 4 weeks prior to the release procedures, and rehabilitatively over at least another 4 weeks after the release procedures.
Can orofacial myofunctional therapy alone widen the jaws?
Depending on the natural growth potential of the patient, the jaws develop favourably when the muscles of the mouth and face are functioning optimally. In a growing individual, orofacial myofunctional therapy can help to unlock their own genetic potential. If the response is positive, then the natural growth and development of the jaws remain on the right track and direction, decreasing the risk of needing more complicated orthodontic treatment when the patient is older.
Do the weekly visits have to always be in-person?
Having in-person visits is always preferable. It is more difficult to go to the gym online. However, we have many patients attending from regional areas, interstate, and even overseas. In these situations, some appointments can be arranged to happen online via video calls. However, not all visits can be completed online, as it is very challenging to evaluate dysfunctions and prescribe exercises virtually. Often, online visits are quite limiting in regards to the extent of the therapy that we can provide. We do encourage in-person appointments, as these are a lot more effective in achieving better treatment outcomes.