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What is Myofunctional Therapy?

Myofunctional therapy (MT) is an exercise-based therapy routine. Specifically, this type of therapy trains the muscles in your face, mouth, and tongue. Myofunctional therapy helps improve function with breathing, eating, and talking. Many people have issues with swallowing or even snoring. So, myofunctional therapy is an excellent way to move and breathe better. 

Improper breathing, chewing, and swallowing patterns can create other issues and health problems like snoring or pain in the jaw joint (TMJ). Disrupted breathing patterns can affect more than your mouth and throat. OMDs can cause a foggy brain, issues with memory, high blood pressure, and other heart conditions. 

2D image of airway structure in black on white background myofunctional therapy dentist in Acton Massachusetts

How Does It Work?

According to some studies, MT is an effective alternative treatment for sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a form of sleep apnea where the soft tissues—the soft palate, throat, and tongue—obstruct the airway during sleep. Alternatively, if a patient doesn’t have sleep apnea but is a heavy snorer, MT can reduce its effects. 

Ultimately, MT aims to better a patient’s breathing. However, dentists use it to fix other myofunctional disorders (OMDs) issues. OMDs create problems with sucking and chewing for patients older than three. It also helps misplaced tongue positions and blocked nasal passages. MT seeks to develop a proper swallowing pattern and close the lips. Additionally, it places the tongue on the roof of the mouth in a proper resting position. Finally, this therapy moves a patient to nasal breathing. 

What Are Some Myofunctional Exercises?

Much like physical therapy for other muscular or skeletal issues, MT includes physical exercises to work your muscles. Your therapist will create a treatment plan that will work to ease your OMD symptoms. 

One exciting exercise involves sucking yogurt through a narrow straw. The yogurt experiences resistance because it is thicker than water. This exercise is designed to improve your sucking ability by strengthening the muscles in the throat and tongue. 

Conversely, your myofunctional therapist may have you blow into a balloon. More specifically, you will breathe through your nose and exhale into a balloon to inflate it as much as possible. This will strengthen your jaws, face, and throat muscles. 

Other exercises include using your tongue. Tongue touches, teeth touches, and tongue presses all strengthen your tongue to reduce sleep apnea symptoms. 

Its Use for Sleep Apnea

One of its many uses is for obstructive sleep apnea. When you sleep, your muscles relax for you to get some rest. Unfortunately, this relaxation can create a dangerous sleep disorder. The tongue, soft palate, and throat muscles block the airway. A blocked airway won’t allow you to get enough oxygen in your blood.

Using MT will strengthen the same muscles that can cause obstruction. As a result, it will help keep your airway open while you sleep. You may use myofunctional therapy with a sleep apnea device, such as a CPAP machine or an oral appliance

MT is an inexpensive choice for many sleep apnea or OMD treatments. In addition, it is safe and non-invasive.