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Treating Airway Difficulties – CPAP or Myofunctional Therapy?

Image via S. Bea, licensed CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the most common treatments for severe airway constriction and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are continuous positive airway pressure ventilators, or CPAPs. These devices are worn to help sufferers breathe more easily at night.

While it may provide temporary relief, a CPAP is not a cure. Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy may offer another path back to wellness–one that’s safer, more comfortable, and that offers a greater sense of control over recovery. Rather than alleviating the symptoms, myofunctional therapy seeks to improve the structure of the oral cavity, enabling the airway to permit easier, healthier breathing.

Abnormal Breathing

Respiration is not as simplistic as dragging air in and out of our lungs. The physical process involves dozens of muscles throughout our face and neck which determine the diameter of the esophagus, including indirect affectors like the tongue, tonsils, adenoids, and other soft tissue in the oral cavity. Collectively, these systems form the airway, and imbalances in any of them can constrict airflow.

Abnormal breathing is any habitual pattern that alters the way we move or utilize air. Depth, timing, rate, and breathing consistency are all important factors in maintaining proper respiration, and all of them can be affected in different ways by abnormal breathing.

Normal nasal breathing provides an appropriate volume of clean, warm, moist air to the lungs. Normal breathing supplies nitric oxide, a vasodilator that assists in proper oxygen exchange. A collapsed or restricted airway encourages mouth breathing and is especially common at night when patients cannot consciously avoid the habit.

During the daytime, on the other hand, mouth breathers will adopt a forward head posture in order to open up their airways. This is subconscious reaction to a negative stimulus, and these individuals are usually not aware of the habit having formed. The takeaway is that the airway shapes our behavior in whatever way allows us to breathe, whether we want it to or not.

Symptoms and Signs May Include:

Loud snoring disturbing others, breathing cessation during sleep, abrupt awakenings with shortness of breath, dry mouth in the morning or sore throat, morning headaches, insomnia, sleepiness during the day, lack of attention, irritable, sleepy and gasping for air.

Causes of Abnormal Breathing

Causes of abnormal breathing include everything from tongue-tie (aka tethered oral tissues or ‘TOTs’) to sinus infections, allergies, swollen or lax oral tissues, and excess throat thickness due to obesity[1]. It is also closely associated with age, as the older we get the more likely small imbalances can manifest as larger problems. Left untreated, tissue abnormalities promote structural weaknesses around the airway, which eventually constrains normal breathing to a significant degree.

Risks of Delaying Treatment

Abnormal breathing usually does not present immediate changes in our health. Over time, however, it can lead to debilitating conditions like chronic snoring as a result of obstructive sleep apnea. This directly affects the quality of our sleep, which goes on to degrade every aspect of our lives. What’s worse is the problem is self-sustaining, since abnormal usage of muscles and tissues can reshape the maxilla, palatine and mandible bones as well as the craniofacial complex as a whole. This in turn makes it even harder to reform breathing patterns.

Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition most people associate with heavy snoring during sleep. It presents in both adults and children and is directly caused by enlarged adenoids or tonsils, or a generally narrow airway[2].

Over time it can produce mood disorders due to lack of sleep, as well as constant fatigue and cognitive decline. Interrupted breathing patterns lead to a decline of oxygen to the brain (hypoxia), which can cause memory loss, seizure, or even coma[3].

There is a pervasive misconception that beyond chronic daytime sleepiness, OSA is a fairly benign affliction. Nothing could be further from the truth, especially if it is left untreated. Severe long-term cases of obstructive sleep apnea have even been linked to massive heart attacks and death[4].

Other serious conditions linked to untreated OSA include:

  • Fatty liver disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Arrhythmia
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Stroke

OSA should not be confused with Central Sleep Apnea, which manifests similar symptoms but stems from a different cause altogether. CSA occurs when the muscles which control breathing experience a neurological dysfunction when communicating with the brain.

How OSA Is Treated

Due to the potential seriousness of OSA, many patients are treated with extreme measures. Surgery may be necessary to physically repair the airway obstruction. Other cases are treated by monitoring respiration in a sleep study.

Depending on the result of the sleep study, doctors may fast-track a continuous positive airway pressure ventilator for the patient to wear. CPAPs work throughout the night to apply gentle pressure to the airways to ensure they remain unobstructed.

How Effective Are CPAPs?

While CPAP ventilators may provide relief, they should not be thought of as a cure. Symptoms of OSA and obstructed airways will diminish while the device is being worn, but as soon as the patient stops using it, symptoms return in full force. CPAP does not cure obstructive sleep apnea; it only provides a temporary stopgap.

Risks of Long-term Usage

Long-term use of CPAP can even be dangerous. Common side effects include dry throat, dry nose, and sore eyes[5], and it can lead to an increase in respiratory infections or even pneumonia[6]. Patients must be diligent in cleaning the device, not to mention contend with the constant discomfort of sleeping with a mask and ventilator nearby.

While great technological strides have been made to improve the size and noise of CPAP, many patients find wearing it every night cumbersome, if not downright disruptive to their sleeping patterns. Even if CPAP is effective at treating patients’ OSA, it is worth very little if the experience of wearing CPAP prevents a peaceful, comfortable night’s sleep.

Orofacial Myology provides an alternative treatment which is non-invasive and comfortable for all.

A Better Path with Myofunctional Therapy

To assist in restoring proper airway functioning, patients must attend to the source of the issue instead of relying solely on a CPAP. As we have seen with OSA, the disorder is often caused by physical imbalances. Myofunctional therapy can help tone and tighten the structures and tissues of the face and neck to restore unobstructed breathing.

Eliminating airway difficulties and sleep apnea may not always require surgery or uncomfortable machines. By working with a certified orofacial myologist (COM™), patients can enjoy improved health over time, all without invasive methods or painful temporary solutions.

Can Myofunctional Therapy Replace CPAP or Surgery?

Myofunctional therapy does not seek to replace traditional methods of treatment, but rather to augment their effectiveness or prevent patients from needing them in the first place. By reforming how patients make use of the various systems that form the airway, better breathing comes from the bottom up. Orofacial myology is not prescriptive, but therapeutic. Patients with CPAP who work regularly with a COM™ report experiencing far more efficient recovery following surgery or diagnosis of OSA.

It’s important to realize that CPAP is an option, rather than an inevitability. Before resorting to drastic and expensive measures, try improving the tone of the lining of the mouth, muscles of the throat and the other internal systems that together form a healthy airway. Orofacial Myology provides an alternative treatment which is non-invasive and eschews the need for uncomfortable equipment.

Who Performs Myofunctional Therapy?

A COM™ is certified by the International Association of Orofacial Myology (IAOM) and receives extensive training with in-depth investigation into the etiologies, symptoms, and treatment variances of orofacial myofunctional disorders. Their focus goes deeper than simply treating symptoms with therapeutic exercises; a COMTMstrives to uncover the “why” underlying the breathing issue in order to develop a comprehensive and fully informed wellness.

Smart Recovery

A certified orofacial myologist can help patients of all ages manage and recover from a wide variety of airway difficulties. COM™s also work closely with ENTs (as well as other case-appropriate medical professionals) to properly diagnose sleep apnea and suggest the safest and most effective treatments possible. With a COM™ on your side, you know you won’t be fast tracked to a temporary measure like a CPAP machine. Multi-disciplinary professionals must work together for the best interest of the patients.

In some cases, COMs can provide therapy to sleep apnea sufferers to help them. For post-surgery clients, orofacial myology therapy can also assist with rehabilitation, greatly improving the odds of a full recovery.

Another benefit of consulting with a certified orofacial myologist is the ability to analyze your particular situation and search for the best path to complete health. COM™s are deeply invested in airway health, and will provide everything from educational resources to alternative treatment plans and referrals depending on your needs.

Rather than simply treating the symptoms of your sleep apnea, Orofacial Myologists search for the root causes. Often times, there are hidden issues that have gone unidentified, or else are treated under an umbrella diagnosis. From there, your COMTM will help you discern the best course of action for your treatment.

Your OSA Consultation

If you or someone you know is suffering from obstructive airway difficulties related to sleep apnea or may require a CPAP, know that there may be a better, more effective solution.

As a certified orofacial myofunctional therapist, I can help. Call me today to set up an appointment and we’ll discuss your situation. I’m happy to offer teletherapy sessions so you may receive treatment in the convenience and comfort of your own home.

Do you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea or other airway difficulties? Before getting a CPAP, book your consultation with Patricia Pine RDH, COM at 480-442-1590/847-207-7463or by visiting https://musclesinharmony.com.

 

[1]https://www.bergerhenryent.com/childhood-obesity-can-cause-sleep-apnea/

[2]https://articles.mercola.com/what-is-sleep-apnea.aspx

[3]https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Cerebral-Hypoxia-Information-Page

[4]www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-apnea/news/20130611/sleep-apnea-may-boost-risk-of-sudden-cardiac-death

[5]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1026328/

[6]https://www.medicaldaily.com/sleep-apnea-may-increase-pneumonia-risk-cpap-may-increase-pulmonary-aspiration-bacteria-270464

 

Want to learn more about the tongue and soft tissues that affect the airway? Pick up a copy of our book, Please Release Me – The Tethered Oral Tissue Puzzle!

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INTRODUCTION TO MYOFUNCTIONAL THERAPY

When’s the last time you thought about your teeth? How about the muscles in your jaw, or where your tongue rests when you’re not using it? We tend to forget about things like this as we go about our daily lives, yet all too often this is precisely where our most frustrating health issues originate.

It’s surprising to learn that something as unassuming as the tongue can cause everything from crooked teeth to migraines. Even poor breathing patterns or frequent thumb sucking gradually contributes to larger imbalances, moving the muscles and bones in our face out of place one nudge at a time. Simple changes can have massive consequences later in life, but the good news is they’re easy to spot and easy to correct with myofunctional therapy.

Hidden Health

Illness and discomfort doesn’t materialize out of thin air. That headache that ruined your evening was caused by a cascade of physiological processes, not all of which are easy to spot. Some of them are urgent and short term, like noisy traffic or a nagging boss. But others build gradually from deeply rooted imbalances, starting out small and eventually turning into serious health issues down the line.

No matter what ails you, the symptoms you experience are only a small part of the picture. Unfortunately, most modern treatments focus on those symptoms as the end-all path to better health. Take a pill, get expensive surgery, just make the pain stop as quickly as possible! This can be both shortsighted and ineffective, especially when it comes to tricky issues like obstructive sleep apnea or migraines. Patching over pain leaves the underlying cause intact, allowing it to emerge later on as a brand new set of issues to deal with.

A better solution is to tackle symptoms at their source, which is exactly where myofunctional therapy comes into play. Myofunctional therapy examines the physiology as a whole, paying special attention to the structural elements of the mouth, jaw, and face as well as their relationship to the rest of the body. It’s completely non-invasive, and it helps create better awareness about our own physiology for total wellness from the inside out.

What is Myofunctional Therapy?

Myofunctional therapy deals directly with orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMD), which are disorders of the muscles of the face and mouth. A host of physiological processes have their origins in this part of the body, as well, everything from breathing to chewing, swallowing, talking, even overall feelings of health and wellness.

Myofunctional therapy works through a process called neuromuscular re-education. We use this to train the facial structures to perform as intended, dropping harmful movement patterns or improper resting positions and returning the muscles to a state of balance. Below are a few of the common disorders we frequently work with alongside their associated treatments.

  • Sleep apnea – Myofunctional therapy can reduce symptoms of some breathing-related sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea. This involves retraining of the tongue and muscles in the throat and face to reduce airway obstructions while laying down.
  • Dental issues – Abnormal bite patterns, malocclusions, and even crooked teeth can be caused by orofacial structures. We retrain the jaw to use a healthy movement pattern and focus on tongue position to eliminate them at their source.
  • Speech problems – Lisps can develop from an OMD. By re-educating the lips, tongue, and jaw to better articulate sounds, we can eliminate many common speech issues. 

Focus of Myofunctional Therapy

Some of the other issues we work with in myofunctional therapy are centered around the tongue. This simple bit of tissue controls how we breathe, how we chew, and even how we speak, all thanks to its location at the center of our head. It’s the CEO of our body, yet the only time we consciously put it to use is to taunt each other on the schoolyard playground.

By working with tongue positioning and other muscles in the face, myofunctional therapy can diagnose structural imbalances and work to repair them over time. Tongue thrust, for example, is a common condition where the tongue stays forward while swallowing. It affects as many as 67-95% of children, most of whom never benefit from correctional therapy. Left untreated, tongue thrust can change the way a child’s face develops as they age, creating a weak chin, buck teeth, or permanent open bite.

Other common issues associated with tongue thrust and facial muscle imbalances are listed below. Myofunctional therapy can successfully diagnose and treat these conditions and many more, all without harsh medications or expensive and painful surgery.

  • Crooked teeth
  • Heartburn
  • Lisping
  • Malocclusion
  • Mouth breathing
  • Pain in the face, neck, and shoulders
  • Snoring and sleep apnea
  • Stomach aches
  • Thumb sucking
  • TMD
  • Tongue and lip ties (TOTs)

Myofunctional Methods

Myofunctional therapy is safe and gentle, well-suited for patients of all ages. It can help children learn to correct their mouth breathing, assist adults having a hard time sleeping, and even boost a teenager’s confidence if they’re suffering from TMD. Best of all, myofunctional therapy’s focus on prevention means a little work now can correct future issues before they even arise.

Whether you’re suffering from headaches or just a general feeling of malaise, an important first step in the healing process is to locate the root cause. Myofunctional therapy starts by establishing a baseline of imbalance by discussing issues with the patient and performing a manual examination. Every illness is unique, each patient different from the last. There’s no such thing as a one size fits all solution in myofunctional therapy.

Once the causes have been established, it’s time to get better. Treatment plans in myofunctional therapy generally involve an exercise plan aimed at strengthening weak muscles in the face and allowing out of place structures to return to their proper position. They also include awareness practice to help you spot bad habits and train yourself to eliminate them one day at a time.

Wellness for Everyone

Myofunctional therapy works on a wide spectrum of issues by zeroing in on the causes, not focusing on the symptoms. Fixing underlying imbalances boosts the body’s ability to maintain its own state of wellness. It’s like removing a clutch of sticks and leaves from the river. Once the obstacles are out of the way, water can flow freely.

Another benefit to myofunctional therapy is how it can tackle more than just a single symptom. Patients will come in complaining about one issue only to find their therapy has enriched other areas of their lives, fixing problems they had simply learned to live with. Side effects? Not here, just side benefits!

If you’re looking for answers to your oral or breathing problems, we can help. Get in touch today to set up an appointment, or send us an e-mail to connect.

Want to learn more about how the tongue can affect your health? Our book Please Release Me – The Tethered Oral Tissue Puzzle is a great place to start!

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Mouth Breathing – Sources, Symptoms, and Solutions

Healthy humans of all ages usually breathe through our noses. Occasionally we’ll take a gulp of air through the mouth, such as when we’re exercising or have stuffy sinuses. That’s a perfectly normal thing to do, but if it becomes an ongoing habit, there could be some deeper issues worth taking a look at.

Breathing through an open mouth on a regular basis is both a sign of a physiological imbalance and a warning for more serious health problems down the road. There are definite causes of chronic mouth breathing and a large list of associated symptoms, most of which start off small but grow exponentially over time. The sooner you catch it, the less you’ll suffer.

Causes of Mouth Breathing

There’s no singular, easy-to-spot cause of chronic mouth breathing. Possible originating factors include everything from asthma to chronic stress, recurring sinus infections, and a host of poor breathing and eating habits developed throughout life. One thing remains constant for all mouth breathers, however: the longer they do it, the more habitual (and harmful) it becomes.

Some children develop a mouth breathing habit early in life due to allergies, blocked nasal passages, and enlarged adenoids or tonsils. Kids in this stage of mouth breathing can also demonstrate the upwards nose wiping “allergy salute” and have shiners under their eyes, both of which are strong signs that a dangerous poor breathing habit has begun.

Mouth breathers not only suffer from dental issues and chronic allergy symptoms, but also rarely get good-quality sleep, which can lead to the development of behavioral or academic challenges. Sleep apnea may be a popular buzzword in today’s world, but it is nevertheless a serious medical condition. Fortunately, the signs and symptoms of this ailment can be effectively arrested by scheduling an appointment with an Orofacial Myologist who provides myofunctional therapy.

Environmental factors also contribute to mouth breathing. Children that frequently suck their thumb or use pacifiers are training their jaw muscles to pull backwards, creating an open-mouth resting position that naturally leads to excessive mouth breathing. This is one of the easier-to-prevent causes of the condition, yet many parents ignore or even encourage it.

Early Symptoms of Mouth Breathing

Breathing through the mouth instead of the nose bypasses a number of beneficial processes. The nose warms and moistens the air we breathe, for example, trapping particles and regulating oxygen intake. It’s a wonderful, life-sustaining system when it operates correctly. When it’s misused, though, it causes serious issues.

In addition to the lost benefits, habitual mouth breathing contributes its own sets of imbalances. Many of these become more serious and more difficult to treat as time goes by. Below are a few of the common adverse consequences of chronic mouth breathing that can appear in both children and adults.

  • Bad breath, dental decay, gum disease
  • Crowded or crooked teeth
  • Chapped, dry lips
  • Snoring
  • Imbalances of the muscles around the jaw and lips
  • Improper tongue positioning
  • Lisping and other speech problems
  • Narrowing of the dental arch, jaw, and palate

When Mouth Breathing is Left Untreated

As is the case with many dental and facial imbalances, mouth breathing is a cumulative and self-perpetuating issue. Once it begins it sets off a cascade of related problems. The symptoms start slow and quiet but multiply exponentially over time. The longer you wait to get treated, the more frustrating and entrenched the symptoms become.

One of the most tragically overlooked effects of mouth breathing is a reduction of nitric oxide. This respiratory gas isn’t as famous as carbon dioxide or oxygen, but nevertheless plays numerous key roles in maintaining your overall health. Nitric oxide is produced by several of the body’s tissues, most notably inside the nasal passageway. Breathing through the mouth instead of the nose can cause a long-term reduction of nitric oxide.

Lower levels of nitric oxide have been associated with several serious health concerns1, including high blood pressure, heart failure, and strokes. Think about that for a moment: If you regularly breathe through your mouth, it could cause a stroke.That includes the nightly struggles of sleep apnea, which deprives your body of nitric oxide eight hours a night.

Beyond the most serious risks, a lack of nitric oxide inhibits the release of oxygen-rich hemoglobin throughout the body, especially to the brain. This leads to chronic daytime sleepiness, cognitive decline, mood disorders, and overall lack of energy.

Adults who have lived with chronic mouth breathing for years also experience the following symptoms:

  • Chronic snoring and sleep apnea
  • Dental malocclusion (including overbite, underbite)
  • Faster breathing
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Brain Fog
  • Hoarseness
  • Narrow facial structure with an unnaturally narrow mouth
  • Persistent sleep disorders related to poor resting habits
  • Poor neck and shoulder posture
  • Weak chins

Correcting Mouth Breathing

The good news for chronic mouth breathers of all ages is that treatment is a possibility. No matter the cause and no matter the severity, there are measures you can take to alleviate symptoms and correct ingrained habits.

For many mouth breathing cases, myofunctional therapy is the perfect first step on the path back to wellness. The methods used are safe and gentle enough that even young children can practice them, yet they’re remarkably effective as correcting mouth breathing and its associated imbalances.

Orofacial Myologists provide myofunctional therapy by first establishing the root of each patient’s imbalance, taking into account everything from small symptoms to seemingly unrelated areas of wellness. Treatment plans are then designed to help bring the body back to a state of balance. For most people this includes a set of face and jaw exercises aimed at strengthening weak muscles, practice spotting bad habits, and of course, breathing exercises to help gradually return the body to wellness.

The Sooner, the Better

Mouth breathing creates an extremely dangerous and damaging snowball effect. Its causes can be small and easy to ignore, and it often doesn’t present any harmful symptoms for months or years after it begins. Once those patterns are established, the snowball starts to roll. Before you know it, your teeth are crooked, your posture is bad, your blood pressure is rising, and sleep apnea keeps you up every night. And it all started from chronic mouth breathing.

What’s worse: these issues are self-perpetuating, making them harder to correct the longer you wait on getting treatment.

The biggest factor in successfully correcting mouth breathing is to start early. Learn to recognize the signs, both in yourself and in your family, especially the little ones. Don’t hesitate to contact a myofunctional therapist for a full evaluation to get started on the road to wellness.

Schedule your appointment today with Orofacial Myologist Pat Pine. Learn more at www.musclesinharmony.com or call now at 480-442-1590!

Did you know the tongue also plays a vital role in your overall health? It’s also one of the major players in chronic mouth breathing! Learn more by checking out our book Please Release Me – The Tethered Oral Tissue Puzzle.

 

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Tethered Oral Tissues: Tongue-Tie and Your Family

Ever pulled out a mirror and looked under your tongue? If so, you probably noticed a small bit of tissue connecting it to the floor of your mouth. That’s the lingual frenulum, one of many soft structures that make up your facial physiology. This tissue keeps the tongue in place and prevents it from moving around too much, which just happens to be one of the most important jobs in your mouth!

Too much tongue movement would be awkward, but too little can be harmful to your health. The latter condition is called ankyloglossia, tethered oral tissues (TOT) or more commonly just as tongue-tie, and it’s the result of a short, thick or unusually rigid lingual frenulum. The tongue is quite literally “tied down”, leading to a host of irritating health problems, some of which may surprise you.

Importance of the Tongue

Surely a wiggly little thing like the tongue can’t be that important to our health, right? Think about it this way: what are the three main things we need to stay alive? Air, water, and food. We take a breath every couple of seconds, we drink water 8-10 times a day, and we chew food dozens of times per meal. What do all of those processes have in common? The tongue, of course!

The tongue is the CEO of our body. Like a human CEO with a thriving business, the tongue guides every important action we make. When we breathe, especially laying down at night, the tongue plays its role. We can’t even chew or swallow our food without the tongue doing its thing! Considering that we swallow approximately 600 times per day, the tongue has a powerful influence over the muscles in our face as well as the positioning of our teeth. And here we thought it was only good for licking ice cream cones!

Symptoms Resulting from Tongue-Tie

Tongue-tie most frequently presents at birth. It’s slightly more common in boys than in girls, and it can run in families, too. No one is exactly sure why it develops, but we do have reliable ways to diagnose and treat it, especially in the field of orofacial myofunctional therapy by a trained and certified therapist.

Early visual signs for tongue-tie include a heart-shaped tongue, difficulty touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth, and an inability to stick the tongue out past the lower front teeth. Health symptoms can be different from person to person, but for infants and children they usually include the following:

  • Difficulty latching during breastfeeding
  • Speech impediments like lisping or slurring
  • Breathing difficulties, especially while sleeping
  • Weak facial muscle development, leading to a sunken chin

Deeper Complications Due to Tongue-Tie

Do you have inexplicable neck pain, shoulder pain, or headaches? How about constant mind fog or sleep apnea? Those could be related to tethered oral tissues, believe it or not! Adults who live their entire lives with tongue-tie can run into more severe symptoms than children, all thanks to the relentless march of time.

Sleep apnea is one of the more damaging results of long-term tongue-tie. The tip of the tongue is supposed to rest against the hard palate, that bit of sturdy bone and skin just behind your top front teeth. The tongue’s natural rest position also has the important effect of expanding the bones of the palate called the maxillae, forming a graceful U-shaped arch which is critical for keeping your teeth in line.

With tongue tie, the tongue cannot reach its resting position against the palate because it’s tied to the floor of the mouth (hence the name). The lack of pressure morphs that U shape into a V, paving the way for misaligned and erupting teeth. Additionally, the tongue will sit overall lower and further back in the mouth. This gets worse when you lay down to sleep, obstructing the airway and causing that loud snoring sound we all hate to hear.

Poor oral hygiene, including gingivitis, severe tooth decay, and crooked teeth, all have direct links to tongue-tie. The tongue’s ability to function is directly related to how healthy our mouth stays. It’s kind of like a little broom sweeping up all the leftover debris. If the tongue is tethered down, it can’t clean things up. Spend a few years living with a dirty mouth and all kinds of problems are bound to arise!

These are just a few examples of deeper problems caused by tethered oral tissues. With so many structures vital to our health and wellness concentrated in the same area, one imbalance can lead to many. Myofunctional therapy specializes in spotting these facial and dental issues and providing safe, effective treatment plans back to perfect balance.

Today’s Treatment Selection

Research reveals that stretching-specific exercises are very valuable for anyone having their tethered tissues released. These exercises help to prepare the tissues before the release, and can prove extremely effect post-release in ensuring that the tissue does not reattach. Your myofunctional therapist will assist in showing you the correct exercises needed for each frenum released.

Tools Used

When considering having your frenum released, it’s quite common to wonder how exactly this is accomplished. In years past, the only tools available for the procedure were scissors and cautery. However, modern technology affords increased precision and decreased healing times through use of lasers. Several studies have shown that lasers are the preferred tool, since they will not leave behind much scar tissue. While there are several different types of lasers available, the experience and education of the profession regarding tethered oral tissues is easily the most important factor determining the successful outcome of the release.

Preventing Complications with Myofunctional Therapy

When a powerful influencer like the tongue experiences problems, the entire body suffers. Even a slight imbalance can build over time to affect all areas of life. Nobody wants to live with pain or discomfort, especially when it’s easily treatable.

Myofunctional therapy is a wonderfully effective way to prevent and treat oral tissue tethering problems, namely tongue-tie. The methods we use include exercise programs, patient awareness practices, and neuromuscular re-education, all of which train the physiology to restore balance to the structures in our face.

Myofunctional therapy is safe for adults and children alike. It’s completely non-invasive, too, so you don’t have to worry about expensive surgeries or medications with huge lists of side effects.

More than Just Tongues

We spent a lot of time talking about tongue-tie, mainly because of the tongue’s importance to our overall health. It’s not the only tissue that can suffer from tethering problems, however. Lip-tie is a condition where the upper or lower lips are restricted in a similar way, for example. And there are even buccal ties that affect the cheeks!

Tethered oral tissues can be difficult to spot in infants, but it is critical to do so. As the child ages, the symptoms can get progressively more challenging to treat. If you think your child, yourself, or someone in your family could be suffering from a tongue-tie or other tethered oral tissue-related condition, give us a call and set up an appointment. Remember: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

 

Intrigued about the deeper mysteries of the tongue and its role in health? Check out our book for more information: Please Release Me – The Tethered Oral Tissue Puzzle

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TETHERED ORAL TISSUES: TONGUE-TIE AND YOUR FAMILY

Ever pulled out a mirror and looked under your tongue? If so, you probably noticed a small bit of tissue connecting it to the floor of your mouth. That’s the lingual frenulum, one of many soft structures that make up your facial physiology. This tissue keeps the tongue in place and prevents it from moving around too much, which just happens to be one of the most important jobs in your mouth!

Too much tongue movement would be awkward, but too little can be harmful to your health. The latter condition is called ankyloglossia, tethered oral tissues (TOT) or more commonly just as tongue-tie, and it’s the result of a short, thick or unusually rigid lingual frenulum. The tongue is quite literally “tied down”, leading to a host of irritating health problems, some of which may surprise you.

Importance of the Tongue

Surely a wiggly little thing like the tongue can’t be that important to our health, right? Think about it this way: what are the three main things we need to stay alive? Air, water, and food. We take a breath every couple of seconds, we drink water 8-10 times a day, and we chew food dozens of times per meal. What do all of those processes have in common? The tongue, of course!

The tongue is the CEO of our body. Like a human CEO with a thriving business, the tongue guides every important action we make. When we breathe, especially laying down at night, the tongue plays its role. We can’t even chew or swallow our food without the tongue doing its thing! Considering that we swallow approximately 600 times per day, the tongue has a powerful influence over the muscles in our face as well as the positioning of our teeth. And here we thought it was only good for licking ice cream cones!

Symptoms Resulting from Tongue-Tie

Tongue-tie most frequently presents at birth. It’s slightly more common in boys than in girls, and it can run in families, too. No one is exactly sure why it develops, but we do have reliable ways to diagnose and treat it, especially in the field of orofacial myofunctional therapy by a trained and certified therapist.

Early visual signs for tongue-tie include a heart-shaped tongue, difficulty touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth, and an inability to stick the tongue out past the lower front teeth. Health symptoms can be different from person to person, but for infants and children they usually include the following:

  • Difficulty latching during breastfeeding
  • Speech impediments like lisping or slurring
  • Breathing difficulties, especially while sleeping
  • Weak facial muscle development, leading to a sunken chin

Deeper Complications Due to Tongue-Tie

Do you have inexplicable neck pain, shoulder pain, or headaches? How about constant mind fog or sleep apnea? Those could be related to tethered oral tissues, believe it or not! Adults who live their entire lives with tongue-tie can run into more severe symptoms than children, all thanks to the relentless march of time.

Sleep apnea is one of the more damaging results of long-term tongue-tie. The tip of the tongue is supposed to rest against the hard palate, that bit of sturdy bone and skin just behind your top front teeth. The tongue’s natural rest position also has the important effect of expanding the bones of the palate called the maxillae, forming a graceful U-shaped arch which is critical for keeping your teeth in line.

With tongue tie, the tongue cannot reach its resting position against the palate because it’s tied to the floor of the mouth (hence the name). The lack of pressure morphs that U shape into a V, paving the way for misaligned and erupting teeth. Additionally, the tongue will sit overall lower and further back in the mouth. This gets worse when you lay down to sleep, obstructing the airway and causing that loud snoring sound we all hate to hear.

Poor oral hygiene, including gingivitis, severe tooth decay, and crooked teeth, all have direct links to tongue-tie. The tongue’s ability to function is directly related to how healthy our mouth stays. It’s kind of like a little broom sweeping up all the leftover debris. If the tongue is tethered down, it can’t clean things up. Spend a few years living with a dirty mouth and all kinds of problems are bound to arise!

These are just a few examples of deeper problems caused by tethered oral tissues. With so many structures vital to our health and wellness concentrated in the same area, one imbalance can lead to many. Myofunctional therapy specializes in spotting these facial and dental issues and providing safe, effective treatment plans back to perfect balance.

Today’s Treatment Selection

Research reveals that stretching-specific exercises are very valuable for anyone having their tethered tissues released. These exercises help to prepare the tissues before the release, and can prove extremely effect post-release in ensuring that the tissue does not reattach. Your myofunctional therapist will assist in showing you the correct exercises needed for each frenum released.

Tools Used

When considering having your frenum released, it’s quite common to wonder how exactly this is accomplished. In years past, the only tools available for the procedure were scissors and cautery. However, modern technology affords increased precision and decreased healing times through use of lasers. Several studies have shown that lasers are the preferred tool, since they will not leave behind much scar tissue. While there are several different types of lasers available, the experience and education of the profession regarding tethered oral tissues is easily the most important factor determining the successful outcome of the release.

Preventing Complications with Myofunctional Therapy

When a powerful influencer like the tongue experiences problems, the entire body suffers. Even a slight imbalance can build over time to affect all areas of life. Nobody wants to live with pain or discomfort, especially when it’s easily treatable.

Myofunctional therapy is a wonderfully effective way to prevent and treat oral tissue tethering problems, namely tongue-tie. The methods we use include exercise programs, patient awareness practices, and neuromuscular re-education, all of which train the physiology to restore balance to the structures in our face.

Myofunctional therapy is safe for adults and children alike. It’s completely non-invasive, too, so you don’t have to worry about expensive surgeries or medications with huge lists of side effects.

More than Just Tongues

We spent a lot of time talking about tongue-tie, mainly because of the tongue’s importance to our overall health. It’s not the only tissue that can suffer from tethering problems, however. Lip-tie is a condition where the upper or lower lips are restricted in a similar way, for example. And there are even buccal ties that affect the cheeks!

Tethered oral tissues can be difficult to spot in infants, but it is critical to do so. As the child ages, the symptoms can get progressively more challenging to treat. If you think your child, yourself, or someone in your family could be suffering from a tongue-tie or other tethered oral tissue-related condition, give us a call and set up an appointment. Remember: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

 

Intrigued about the deeper mysteries of the tongue and its role in health? Check out our book for more information: Please Release Me – The Tethered Oral Tissue Puzzle

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Introduction to Myofunctional Therapy

When’s the last time you thought about your teeth? How about the muscles in your jaw, or where your tongue rests when you’re not using it? We tend to forget about things like this as we go about our daily lives, yet all too often this is precisely where our most frustrating health issues originate.

It’s surprising to learn that something as unassuming as the tongue can cause everything from crooked teeth to migraines. Even poor breathing patterns or frequent thumb sucking gradually contributes to larger imbalances, moving the muscles and bones in our face out of place one nudge at a time. Simple changes can have massive consequences later in life, but the good news is they’re easy to spot and easy to correct with myofunctional therapy.

Hidden Health

Illness and discomfort doesn’t materialize out of thin air. That headache that ruined your evening was caused by a cascade of physiological processes, not all of which are easy to spot. Some of them are urgent and short term, like noisy traffic or a nagging boss. But others build gradually from deeply rooted imbalances, starting out small and eventually turning into serious health issues down the line.

No matter what ails you, the symptoms you experience are only a small part of the picture. Unfortunately, most modern treatments focus on those symptoms as the end-all path to better health. Take a pill, get expensive surgery, just make the pain stop as quickly as possible! This can be both shortsighted and ineffective, especially when it comes to tricky issues like obstructive sleep apnea or migraines. Patching over pain leaves the underlying cause intact, allowing it to emerge later on as a brand new set of issues to deal with.

A better solution is to tackle symptoms at their source, which is exactly where myofunctional therapy comes into play. Myofunctional therapy examines the physiology as a whole, paying special attention to the structural elements of the mouth, jaw, and face as well as their relationship to the rest of the body. It’s completely non-invasive, and it helps create better awareness about our own physiology for total wellness from the inside out.

What is Myofunctional Therapy?

Myofunctional therapy deals directly with orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMD), which are disorders of the muscles of the face and mouth. A host of physiological processes have their origins in this part of the body, as well, everything from breathing to chewing, swallowing, talking, even overall feelings of health and wellness.

Myofunctional therapy works through a process called neuromuscular re-education. We use this to train the facial structures to perform as intended, dropping harmful movement patterns or improper resting positions and returning the muscles to a state of balance. Below are a few of the common disorders we frequently work with alongside their associated treatments.

  • Sleep apnea – Myofunctional therapy can reduce symptoms of some breathing-related sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea. This involves retraining of the tongue and muscles in the throat and face to reduce airway obstructions while laying down.
  • Dental issues – Abnormal bite patterns, malocclusions, and even crooked teeth can be caused by orofacial structures. We retrain the jaw to use a healthy movement pattern and focus on tongue position to eliminate them at their source.
  • Speech problems – Lisps can develop from an OMD. By re-educating the lips, tongue, and jaw to better articulate sounds, we can eliminate many common speech issues. 

Focus of Myofunctional Therapy

Some of the other issues we work with in myofunctional therapy are centered around the tongue. This simple bit of tissue controls how we breathe, how we chew, and even how we speak, all thanks to its location at the center of our head. It’s the CEO of our body, yet the only time we consciously put it to use is to taunt each other on the schoolyard playground.

By working with tongue positioning and other muscles in the face, myofunctional therapy can diagnose structural imbalances and work to repair them over time. Tongue thrust, for example, is a common condition where the tongue stays forward while swallowing. It affects as many as 67-95% of children, most of whom never benefit from correctional therapy. Left untreated, tongue thrust can change the way a child’s face develops as they age, creating a weak chin, buck teeth, or permanent open bite.

Other common issues associated with tongue thrust and facial muscle imbalances are listed below. Myofunctional therapy can successfully diagnose and treat these conditions and many more, all without harsh medications or expensive and painful surgery.

  • Crooked teeth
  • Heartburn
  • Lisping
  • Malocclusion
  • Mouth breathing
  • Pain in the face, neck, and shoulders
  • Snoring and sleep apnea
  • Stomach aches
  • Thumb sucking
  • TMD
  • Tongue and lip ties (TOTs)

Myofunctional Methods

Myofunctional therapy is safe and gentle, well-suited for patients of all ages. It can help children learn to correct their mouth breathing, assist adults having a hard time sleeping, and even boost a teenager’s confidence if they’re suffering from TMD. Best of all, myofunctional therapy’s focus on prevention means a little work now can correct future issues before they even arise.

Whether you’re suffering from headaches or just a general feeling of malaise, an important first step in the healing process is to locate the root cause. Myofunctional therapy starts by establishing a baseline of imbalance by discussing issues with the patient and performing a manual examination. Every illness is unique, each patient different from the last. There’s no such thing as a one size fits all solution in myofunctional therapy.

Once the causes have been established, it’s time to get better. Treatment plans in myofunctional therapy generally involve an exercise plan aimed at strengthening weak muscles in the face and allowing out of place structures to return to their proper position. They also include awareness practice to help you spot bad habits and train yourself to eliminate them one day at a time.

Wellness for Everyone

Myofunctional therapy works on a wide spectrum of issues by zeroing in on the causes, not focusing on the symptoms. Fixing underlying imbalances boosts the body’s ability to maintain its own state of wellness. It’s like removing a clutch of sticks and leaves from the river. Once the obstacles are out of the way, water can flow freely.

Another benefit to myofunctional therapy is how it can tackle more than just a single symptom. Patients will come in complaining about one issue only to find their therapy has enriched other areas of their lives, fixing problems they had simply learned to live with. Side effects? Not here, just side benefits!

If you’re looking for answers to your oral or breathing problems, we can help. Get in touch today to set up an appointment, or send us an e-mail to connect.

 

Want to learn more about how the tongue can affect your health? Our book Please Release Me – The Tethered Oral Tissue Puzzle is a great place to start!