Orofacial Myology (Myofunctional Therapy)

Orofacial Myology (Myofunctional Therapy)

Orofacial myology or myofunctional therapy is a non-surgical, oral facial muscle therapy that combines exercise and measurements to improve the function of the facial muscles or “mouth posture”. The target of treatment is to correct a deviated swallow or “tongue thrust” that can or has resulted in abnormal swallowing patterns. By strengthening oral facial muscles, the patient will be able to correct habits developed over a lifetime and learn to swallow correctly. The average person swallows 500 to 1000 times a day. Swallowing doesn’t seem all that important, but it is really the overall function of the mouth, tongue, teeth and throat that can have an effect on facial profile, our body’s ability to process the food we eat, and our ability to pronounce words. If the tongue isn’t resting properly during swallowing, it can affect all these other things.

The Forces of the Tongue

To understand myofunctional disorders, we need to know about the forces that causes it. The most important of these forces is the tongue. The tongue is one of the strongest muscles in the body.

Proper mouth function and development starts at the beginning when a newborn uses the thrust of the tongue to get mother’s milk. When the tongue rests properly against the roof of the mouth, it pushes back against the muscles and structures forming and shaping the upper jaw (palate) around the tongue.

During swallowing, the tongue should be resting and not involved at all. When the tongue is not being used it should sit in the roof of the mouth and should be there when breathing or swallowing. If it sits or moves incorrectly, it will exert unwanted pressure on the teeth.

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Why do Orofacial Deficiencies need to be corrected?

Mouth posture is taken seriously because if these muscles are out of balance the teeth, jaws and face will be affected. Correcting or improving the resting tongue or lip relationships can be beneficial in aiding the development of normal facial growth patterns and tooth alignment.

Many children’s mouths are shaped incorrectly by thumb-sucking and pacifier use, but one of the most common problems seen is the tongue-thrust swallow. This tongue-thrust swallow can be just as damaging to the teeth and jaws and, if not corrected, will cause similar orofacial deformities as the original thumb or pacifier problem.

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Who can benefit from Myofunctional Therapy?

Children who:

  • Were born prematurely and had feeding difficulties;
  • Used pacifiers
  • Sucked their thumbs, fingers or other objects
  • Had difficulties with breastfeeding (perhaps as a result of tongue or lip tie)
  • Were bottle fed.

People who suffer from disorders or syndromes that affect their ability to use their facial muscles effectively and efficiently to eat, swallow or speak such as:

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Cleft lip and palate
  • Down Syndrome
  • Oral Apraxia (where there has been brain damage affecting the how the mouth functions)
  • Autism
  • Sensory Integration Disorder
  • Dysarthria (motor speech disorder affecting muscles in the mouth, face, and respiratory system, usually as a result of a neurological injury)


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Signs of an Orofacial Dysfunction

Some of the common symptoms to look for relating to deviated swallow are:

  • Malocclusion (misalignment of the teeth) or overbite caused by “tongue thrust”;
  • Infants that have difficulty latching and feeding;
  • Difficulty articulating words that speech therapy hasn’t fixed;
  • Tongue protruding between the teeth when speaking, eating or at rest;
  • Dry, chapped lips;
  • Mouth breathing;
  • Poor facial tone (long face);
  • Excessive belching or stomach aches;
  • Poor eating and feeding mechanics;
  • Chronic jaw pain.


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What does Orofacial Myology Involve?

Orofacial myology consists of a number of exercises or activities given to the patient to practise at home. They are all easy to do and can actually be a lot of fun. The patient will be seen regularly to monitor progress.

Parental involvement and encouragement is essential with children of all ages.

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Orofacial Myology (Myofunctional Therapy) January 5, 2015