Orofacial myofunctional therapy is a program to reeducate, strengthen and tone the orofacial muscles and the tongue. Current research indicates that properly toned orofacial muscles aide in swallowing, digestion, TMJ therapy, orthodontic retention, and in the treatment of sleep apnea.
Habitual sucking of the thumb or fingers, for example, may cause a swallowing problem. Thumb sucking can push the tongue into an unnatural position which can damage the teeth and dental arches.
Correct positioning of the tongue and lips can also be difficult when this occurs, leading to an improper functioning pattern.
Often the most obvious symptom of incorrect oral posture involves the muscles of the face. A dull, sluggish appearance and full, weak lips develop when muscles are operating normally.
Constantly parted lips (with and without mouth breathing) also signal the disorder. A person swallowing incorrectly will often purse and tighten the muscles of the cheeks, chin, and lips. This can give the chin a knobby appearance, or a “chin button.”
A person with abnormal muscle patterns may suffer a lisp or difficulty articulation sounds. Other problems within the body that can lead to swallowing issues include respiratory disorders or airway obstruction such as enlarged tonsils and adenoids, or a tight lingual frenum, the attachment that holds the tongue to the floor of the mouth, commonly referred to as a “tongue-tie.”
Orofacial therapy helps eliminate the causes of swallowing abnormalities. It is painless and the exercises are relatively simple. When certain muscles are activated and functioning properly, other muscles will follow suit until proper coordination and tone of tongue and facial muscles is gained.