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  • Writer's pictureCAFF Team

HOW DOES MYOFUNCTIONAL THERAPY BENEFIT CHILDREN?

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Many parents are surprised when their pediatrician or dentist recommends myofunctional therapy for their child. The surprise comes, for many, due to the lack of understanding around exactly what myofunctional therapy is and all the benefits it can offer children now and throughout their lives.


myofunctional therapy in children

The goal of myofunctional therapy is to improve the bite, breathing, and facial posture of children with orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs) through a combination of physical therapy exercises. To achieve optimal tongue position and posture during oral rest, the training targets the soft tissues of the face, neck, and mouth.



Correct swallowing depends on a proper relationship between the muscles of the face, mouth, and throat. The act of swallowing is one function that depends on the body’s vital balance. To swallow properly, muscles and nerves in the tongue, cheeks, and throat must work together in harmony. When a child swallows normally, the tip of the tongue presses firmly against the roof of the mouth or hard palate, located slightly behind the front teeth. The tongue acts in concert with all the other muscles involved in swallowing. The hard palate, meanwhile, absorbs the force created by the tongue.


Children suffering from an orofacial myofunctional disorder may experience or show signs and symptoms of:

  • an abnormal bite - leading to difficulties biting and chewing

  • a tongue thrust

  • trouble swallowing

  • chronic mouth breathing or snoring

  • tongue, lip, or cheek tie

  • speech problems

  • chronic thumb-sucking or extended pacifier use

  • orofacial muscular and structural differences

  • misaligned teeth, overbite, or underbite

  • facial pain

  • trouble breastfeeding

Myofunctional therapy uses neuromuscular re-education exercises to help normalize face and mouth structures. These exercises teach your child's muscles, nerves, and brain how to restore optimal movement.


HOW CAN OROFACIAL MYOFUNCTIONAL DISORDERS IMPACT A CHILD'S ORAL HEALTH?


Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders can affect the functions and muscles of a child's mouth and face, causing a variety of effects, either directly or indirectly, such as malocclusions or facial misalignment.


In addition to contributing to malocclusions like overbite, overjet, and underbite, OMDs can also cause tooth decay and gum disease. When the lip, tongue, and jaw are misaligned, the tongue cannot function normally, which affects the saliva flow in your child's mouth causing your child to have a chronic dry mouth.


Myofunctional Therapy with Karese Laguerre

A dry mouth means that saliva cannot perform the role it's meant to in your child's mouth. What is the role of saliva? It's there to protect teeth and gums by neutralizing harmful acids. It also acts as a protective barrier, preventing bacteria from growing in the mouth.


Children with OMDs are often chronic mouth breathers. Chronic mouth breathing is a complex health concern that can lead to sleep apnea, speech impediments, and improper facial growth.


WHAT IS PROPER TONGUE POSITION?

One of the main things a myofunctional therapist will work on with your child is proper tongue position. Proper tongue posture can protect your child's oral health as well as their overall, long-term health. Practicing proper tongue positioning can lead to improved sleep, better breathing, and decreased neck, jaw, or head pain.


So what does proper tongue position look like? When your child's mouth is at rest, their tongue should be against the roof of their mouth, but it should not be pressing against any of their teeth. Your child's teeth should be slightly apart, and lips should be closed.


proper tongue posture

Why are myofunctional therapists so concerned about improper tongue posture? Improper tongue posture can lead to a narrower palate over time. Children with narrow or v-shaped palates are more prone to airway disorders, sleep apnea, speech problems, and dental concerns.


ARE MYO MUNCHEES GOOD FOR CHILDREN?


You may have heard some of the myofunctional therapists on our podcast, Airway First, talk about the Myo Munchee. The Myo Munchee is a small chewing device, similar to a mouthguard, made of soft, medical-grade silicone. The device encourages your baby or toddler to chew instead of sucking (like they would do with a pacifier).


Why is chewing so important? Chewing has been linked to facial development, proper jaw growth, the development of correct swallowing patterns, and airway health. As discussed in our podcast interview with Dr. Kevin Boyd, primitive cultures were chewing on dried meats, nuts, and seeds, which is why their skulls are perfectly aligned, their jaws are wide, and there is room for all 32 teeth naturally.



DOES YOUR CHILD NEED MYOFUNCTIONAL THERAPY?


If you're wondering if your child might benefit from myofunctional therapy, here are a few steps you can take to get the process going:


  1. Monitor your child for mouth breathing and/or an open-mouth resting posture. How often does it occur during the day? Do they sleep with their mouth open and/or snore frequently?

  2. Consider talking to a doctor or dentist who specializes in breathing and sleep. It may even be time to have a sleep study done for you or your child. Your doctor will be able to evaluate your child and decide the best course of action.

  3. Have an evaluation with a myofunctional therapist. A myofunctional therapist will often know other specialists and will be able to point you in the right direction at the very least.


SPOTLIGHT BOOK RESOURCE FOR PARENTS


Brave Parents by Susan Maples

Sleep is critical and vital to health and wellness. Without dispute. What happens, however, after exhausting every tip, strategy, and technique in the pursuit of better sleep; only to wind up exhausted?


Sleep deprivation, a modern epidemic fueled by myths of inception and duration, has a new adversary. Accomplished is a compelling look at a revolutionary approach to sleep, quality over quantity. Granting the reader an introspective look at destructive habits and access to a customizable process for achieving goals through restorative sleep. Amplifying the century-old dental specialty of myofunctional therapy, Karese Laguerre took a personal fight for her family’s wellness and uncovered a process used to improve the lives and sleep of hundreds of clients. Laguerre shares personal and professional cases that will redefine how you measure sleep and self-worth.


Finally, discover which biological limitations hurt or help sleep and productivity, and how to maximize your sleep for true restoration without compromising your daily schedule.




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