Did you know exercise for your health is not only limited to your arms, core, and legs? Some activities can target your facial muscles and tongue, too. Just like workouts in the gym improve muscle strength and posture, Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy provides a workout for tongue and facial muscle strength for appropriate oral rest posture. Myofunctional therapy is a plan of action based on the strengths and weaknesses of facial muscles. Strengthening these muscles promotes normal oral rest posture. In addition, a myofunctional therapist can diagnose and treat myofunctional disorders and create a workout to encourage good oral posture habits and help you retrain your brain to use them automatically!
What is normal oral rest posture? And why is it important?
Normal oral rest posture is characterized by the tongue suctioned to the roof of your mouth, teeth slightly parted, and mouth closed. This position promotes an open airway and optimal breathing. You should be able to hold normal oral rest posture, except when talking. Even at night! A myofunctional therapist observes, provides feedback, and gives tips and exercises on optimizing oral posture as much as possible.
Why do I need Orofacial Myology Therapy?
A professional would refer an adult OR child to a Myofunctional Therapist for various reasons. Dentists or physicians usually refer patients due to concerns with the following:
- Abnormal facial skeletal growth (maxillofacial development)
- Sleep-disordered breathing (including snoring and sleep apnea)
- Nasal obstruction (ex., Enlarged adenoids)
- Oral hygiene and dental problems
- Teeth grinding (bruxism)
- Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
- Neck and shoulder tension
- Speech problems
- Facial esthetics
- Tongue thrust (usually treated in children)
- Ankyloglossia (tongue-tie)*
- And many more
*Many clients are referred to a Myofunctional Therapist for pre-and post-operative exercises related to tongue-tie. These exercises prepare the client for specific movements during the procedure and help clients keep the tissue moving and flexible after surgery.
What Orofacial Myofunctional therapy exercises can I do at Home?
With a bit of practice, these exercises can quickly be done in 5-10 minutes (depending on each client’s age and level of ability). We recommend repeating these ten times per exercise and repeated 3-4 times daily.
Tongue to spot– Find the “bumpy part” (anatomically known as the Alveolar Ridge) of the roof of your mouth. Move your tongue along this spot to get familiar. Next, place just the tip of your tongue on the “bumpy part” and open your mouth, keeping the tip of your tongue on the “bumpy part .”Hold for 10 seconds at first, but work your way up to 1 minute.
Tongue suction hold (or Cave)– With your mouth closed, lay the entire top of your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Next, slowly open your mouth, mostly the chin and jaw, while keeping your tongue tight against the roof of your mouth. Hold for 10 seconds, then relax.
Repeat ten times. Work your way up from 10 seconds to 30-60 seconds.
Tongue Click– Perform the suction hold exercise, but instead of relaxing, allow your tongue to fall and make the “click” or “tik tok” sounds. Repeat ten times.
There are many more activities that a trained therapist can use in Myofunctional therapy to address your specific needs. The exercises and the information provided in this blog are a general overview for education purposes. These exercises must be performed under the supervision of an experienced myofunctional therapist. Different sets of exercises are used based on a patient’s strengths, weaknesses, and goals for therapy. A speech-language pathologist or occupational therapist can help you create a plan based on your needs and their assessment.