sleeping child sucking their thumb

Airway, Face-oriented Orthodontic and Orthopedic Treatment

the Standard of Care at Sunrise Orthodontics

“Myo” is the medical prefix that stands for muscle. Orafacial Myofunctional Therapy, then, involves identifying and eliminating harmful habits or disorders relating to the muscles of the tongue, cheek, lips and jaw position. The therapy often is used in the correction of behavioral patterns, such as thumb-sucking.

At an early age, incorrect muscle functions can have an effect on the development of the head and facial area (or craniofacial). Left untreated, this can result in anterior open bite, open-mouth rest posture and also inadequate swallowing patterns.

Research shows that a tongue which rests down and forward is related to a narrow palate, meaning that there is no sealing of the lips. The tongue, because it is actually a muscle, can create a surprisingly strong force. Consider an individual having typical, repetitive movements of the tongue 1,000 times a day — the force exerted by that improper movement can over time contribute to deformation of the surrounding structures. Because of that, it is important to correct these malfunctions, or habitual misuse of the tongue.

Myofunctional therapy may be required as part of the correction of a malocclusion, which is a condition where the upper and lower teeth do not meet in an ideal way. This therapy helps provide a stable environment for one’s bite after orthodontic treatment. To treat a malocclusion successfully, an orthodontist must be aware of those neuromuscular forces associated with it.

Dr. Calkins is trained to diagnose and treat abnormal activities in the pattern of tongue movements, the muscles involved in chewing, as well as the muscles around the mouth and in the cervical or neck area. Since a malocclusion can affect respiration, evaluation of respiratory function is also essential to both diagnose and treat it.

What causes orofacial myofunctional disorders?

  • Improper oral habits such as thumb or finger sucking, cheek or nail biting, teeth clenching or grinding
  • A restricted airway due to enlarged tonsils or adenoids, unresolved allergies or trauma
  • Structural abnormalities, such as a short lingual-labial frenum (the tendon beneath one’s tongue)
  • Neurological or other developmental abnormalities

What could happen if myofunctional disorders are left untreated?

  • Orthodontic relapse
  • Jaw joint problems
  • Psychological problems
  • Posture problems
  • Gum disease problems

What are the goals of treatment?

  • Proper resting position of the tongue
  • Nasal breathing
  • Proper chewing and swallowing
  • Learning to keep the lips sealed
  • Elimination of habits that contribute to the problem
  • Encouragement of adequate facial and dental growth
  • Enhancement of airway and facial growth potential
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