November 16, 2021
Orofacial myology pertains to the study of facial and oral muscles. This field includes examination of their structure, action and any kind of disease that may affect their functioning. It is based on the premise that a number of oral functional disorders can be treated with proper understanding and management of muscular performance. An orofacial myologist works with a dentist and other specialists like speech therapists to provide solutions to issues like open bite, tongue thrust, tongue tie, chewing, breathing through the mouth, and so on.
Let’s take a deeper look at orofacial myological disorders.
Essentially a lot of oral problems are caused by the way we rest or move our facial muscles. This also hampers proper growth of the facial and oral muscles, development of the oral cavity and appropriate resting position of the lips and jaw. Additionally, unhealthy habits such as thumb sucking, use of pacifiers, lip licking or biting, cheek biting are other commonly known areas covered by this field.
• The pressure caused by inappropriate resting position of the tongue can affect the dentition, that is, cause an overbite, crooked teeth as well as hamper proper development of oral cavity.
• Another common area of concern is mouth breathing. This is often due to obstruction of nasal airway because of allergies, structural abnormalities, crooked septum or even enlarged tonsils.
• Incorrect swallowing or formation of large bolus
• Unclear speech of sounds where the tongue touches the space behind the upper front teeth i.e., alveolar sounds
• Messy eating as the person is unable to close the mouth completely.
• Improper resting position of lips and lower jaw
• Temporomandibular joint pain
• Asymmetrical look and development of the face
Benefit of orofacial therapy
Treatment consists of specific exercises designed to improve functionality of facial and neck muscles.
• The end goal is to ensure the ideal resting position of the tongue within the mouth as well as proper resting position of the jaw, lips and maintain symmetry of the face.
• The aim of the treatment can also be to support ongoing dental treatment, elimination of habits like thumb sucking and speech therapy.
• It is also a stand-alone method used to prevent further deterioration in dentition and face shape over time. This is especially true when dealing with young patients or children whose face and jaws are still developing.
• Timely intervention with orofacial mylogy therapy reduces the need for surgery or orthodontic treatment as it seeks to correct the basic reason for overbite and allied dentition issues.
• In cases where therapy is started at a later stage when damage has already occurred, it can be of assistance in preventing relapse or treatment failure in orthodontics.
• It provides lifetime skills to manage and improve problems associated with orofacial myological disorders. One can continue to practice these at home for regular improvement.
• It is also helpful in eliminating tongue weakness and fatigue in the elderly helping in better swallowing of bolus.
Therapy begins with an assessment of the patient to determine the inappropriate resting position or detrimental habit that is causing the problem. An individualized regimen of exercises are created so as to provide maximum benefit. The idea is to retrain the muscles for better performance and eliminate the underlying cause. As the patient becomes aware of incorrect placement of the tongue while speaking, chewing, swallowing, or at rest position, he or she begins to make improvement in performing these actions. The treatment program establishes fresh and appropriate neuromuscular patterns. This in turn leads to improvement in breathing, clarity in speech, elimination of damaging habits like lip biting, proper placement of tongue while swallowing and eating, correct lip placement and so on.
• Tongue exercises for tongue thrust: It is seen that the upper jaw tends to expand due to the pressure of the tongue resting at the palate. Specific exercises aimed at repositioning the tongue are undertaken for this.
• Tongue exercises for improper swallowing: The culprit in improper swallowing is the weakness of tongue muscles resulting in fatigue. This leads to slow eating and even reduces the quantity of food intake.
• Tongue exercises for speech: If the tongue strikes incorrect points during speech or in the case when the tongue is protruded forward, alveolar sounds are mispronounced.
• Oropharyngeal exercises : These aim at strengthening the pharyngeal muscles to prevent sleep apnea and snoring.
Orofacial myology aids
These are small rounded pads that stick to the palate. As they are flavored, patients tend to repeatedly touch them. This is an easy way to exercise the tongue and to retrain the person. As the tongue is raised frequently, it is strengthened and the process promotes nasal breathing. These dissolve gradually within an hour.
The cause for crooked teeth is not necessarily due to heredity or overcrowding. It is often due to incorrect oral habits that hamper proper growth of the jaws. Myobrace is used in the developmental age, which encourages correct resting position of the tongue and promotes proper growth of the face.
Made of soft silicone, this device encourages suitable development of the jaws letting it widen and grow naturally. This chewing device strengthens face and oral muscles and prevents unhealthy habits like thumb sucking. This is used at a young age.