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  • What is Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy?
    Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (OMT) is neurological re-education exercises to assist the normalization of the developing, or developed, craniofacial structures and function. It is related to the study, research, prevention, evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of functional and structural alterations in the region of the mouth (oro), face (facial) and regions of the neck (oropharyngeal area). OMT is a series of exercises teaching proper tongue placement, breathing, speaking, chewing, swallowing, and help to address a wide range of health problems including: Sleep disordered breathing including obstructive sleep apnea and upper airway resistance syndrome tongue-tie and tongue thrust TMJ disorders, facial and neck pain Orthodontic and surgical relapse Craniofacial growth and development Headaches Postural issues
  • What are the main problems related to Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders?
    The main problems related to OMDs are alterations in breathing, sucking, chewing, swallowing and speech, as well the position of the lips, tongue (including what is known as oral rest posture), and cheeks. The muscles of the mouth and face are unique and incredibly important. The Orofacial Complex plays an amazing role in life-sustaining tasks, such as eating, drinking, and breathing. They allow us to express emotion, speak, sing, and smile. These muscles also play an essential role in our growth and development, as well as in our dental and airway health. In fact, the function of these muscles can determine whether or not we have straight, healthy teeth and large, healthy sinuses. When the muscles of the Orofacial Complex develop atypical patterns over a period of time, the incorrect muscle adaptations can cause a variety of problems. We consider these problems to be Orofacial Myofunctional Dysfunction.
  • What is tongue thrust?
    A tongue thrust is an abnormal swallow. The terms tongue thrust refers to the placement of the tongue while swallowing. If the tongue protrudes past the front teeth anteriorly, or the tip and/or sides of the tongue spread between the teeth it is considered a tongue thrust.
  • Why is tongue thrust a concern?
    80% of tongue thrusters have an airway problem. These problems can include snoring, sleep apnea, clenching/grinding, nasal blockages, and enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Serious dental problems such as open bites and cross bites can also develop from the improper function of the tongue and muscles used when swallowing. Open bites often lead to TMD due to the lateral shifting of the jaw in order to chew. Malocclusion- Incorrect tongue posture is often the reason for misalignment, crowded teeth, cross bites, and open bites. Delayed tooth eruption- The tongue propelling forward instead of remaining behind the teeth is a constant force that can interfere with the tooth eruption. Cosmetic problems- 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 aren’t operating normally. Constantly parted lips (with or without mouth breathing) also signal this disorder. A person swallowing incorrectly will often purse and tighten the muscles of the cheeks, chin and lips—a symptom known as a facial grimace. This can give the chin a knobby appearance, known as a chin button. Speech problems- A person with abnormal oral muscle patterns may suffer a lisp or have difficulty articulating sounds. If muscles in the tongue and lips are incorrectly postured, that can prevent a person from forming sounds of normal speech. Stomach distress- Includes acid reflux or stomach aches from air swallowing. Forward head posture problems.
  • What can cause an open bite?
    An open bite corresponds to a problem of occlusion caused by multiple factors. Harmful habits (such as finger sucking or pacifier use) as well as the presence of functional disorders (such as mouth breathing and inadequate pressure for an optimal position of the tongue during swallowing and /or speech).
  • Can chewing on one side only be harmful?
    Yes, it is. By chewing only on one side, only the muscles of one side of the face are emphasized. This can cause a facial asymmetry over time. In addition, the bite can be altered and the temporomandibular joint (TMJ, the joint that connects the jaw to the skull and allows the mouth to open and close) on the opposite side of mastication, may suffer an overload.
  • Should Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy occur before or after orthodontic treatment?
    Orthodontic and Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy can be closely related with each directly impacting the other. Each case must be analyzed and discussed by the professionals involved. Treatment may be indicated before, during, and or after orthodontics. Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy specialists promote a balance of the muscle and orofacial functions, improving the oral rest posture of the tongue and thus the stability of these cases treated by orthodontists by helping diminish orthodontic relapse after the removal of braces.
  • What is a Tongue -tie?
    Tongue-tie is a popular term used to characterize a common condition that often goes undetected. It occurs during pregnancy when a small portion of tissue that should disappear during the infant’s development remains at the bottom of the tongue, restricting its movement. When an infant is born with tongue-tie, it is important to research other family members, since this change has a genetic influence.
  • How & when should a tongue-tie be treated?
    When the tongue cannot perform all the necessary movements and thus jeopardizes the way of sucking, swallowing, chewing or talking, a small surgery or frenotomy in the tongue is indicated. The “cut” of the frenum in infants is a simple procedure done with the scissors, scalpel, or laser and anesthetic gel, which last about five minutes. In older children and adults the most common procedure is the frenectomy (partial removal of the lingual frenulum).
  • When is a surgical procedure indicated to release the lingual frenulum?
    In infants, surgery is usually indicated when the lingual frenulum restricts the tongue’s movement and compromises breastfeeding. In older children and adults, the indication is made when the tongue is visibly restricted, is unable to adequately reach the palate, or when possible distortions in speech are caused by limitation of the elevation of the tongue tip (especially in producing the sould of the “L” and “R”) that could not be corrected in speech therapy.
  • What can happen if an infant is not treated?
    Many people with tongue-tie suffer the consequences without knowing the cause. There are infants who have changes in the feeding cycle, causing stress for the infant and for the mother; there are also children with difficulties in chewing, children, and adults with speech problems affecting communication, social relationships and professional development. With the chronic oral rest posture of the tongue in the floor of the mouth, many of the Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMDs) enumerated above may result.
  • Can mouth breathing cause damage?
    Yes, in several aspects, such as the mouth’s and face’s structures and their function, including sleep, feeding, learning, hearing and speech.
  • Is there a difference between nasal and mouth breathing?
    Yes, when breathing is done through the nose, the air is filtered (cleaned), warmed and humidified, and thus it reaches the lungs with less impurities that are in the air. When you breathe through your mouth the air does not go through this process and reaches the lungs full of impurities. The oral rest posture of the tongue and the mandible when mouth breathing may also alter mandibular posture, palate width, and other craniofacial growth patterns as well as posture of the head, neck, and upper body.
  • What can cause mouth breathing?
    The most common causes of mouth breathing are: allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, bronchitis, enlarged adenoids; enlarged tonsils; weakness or low tone of facial muscles that may lead to open mouth rest posture, habits such as thumb sucking, tumors in the region of the nose, enlarged turbinates’, and nose fractures, amongst others.
  • How can mouth breathing cause changes to the structure of and affect functions related to the mouth and face?
    Keeping an open mouth posture can cause: dry and chapped lips, short and fast breathing; diminished strength of the muscles of the lips, cheeks, jaw and tongue; a lowered and more anterior oral rest posture of the tongue, leading to changes in aesthetics and position of teeth/occlusion (improper fit of the teeth); elongated face, retruded mandible, and palate (“roof of the mouth”) becoming narrower and /or deep. Mouth breathing leads to chewing food with lips apart, which becomes faster, noisier, and less efficient than with lips closed. This can lead to greater digestive problems and potential for choking due to the poor coordination between breathing, chewing, and an increase in the swallowing of air. It’s hard to breathe through the mouth when the mouth is full, thus an individual will need to choose whether to chew or to breathe. In the process of swallowing, one may also notice changes such as anterior projection of the tongue, noise, contraction of muscles that wrap around the mouth, and movements of the head. There may also be excessive production of saliva and an anterior lisp: which is a distortion of speech characterized by placing the tongue between the front teeth during sound production of /s/ and /z/.
  • What are the main disadvantages caused by mouth breathing?
    Mouth breathers may have poor appetite, lower strength for chewing and swallowing difficulties. Thus, they may prefer softer foods and the use of liquid to assist feeding. The feeding of mouth breathers may also be impaired because of decreased olfaction (smell) and taste (taste). As a result of changes in chewing, smell, and taste, the individual may have decreased appetite, gastric changes, constant thirst, gagging, pallor, anorexia, and weight loss with less physical improving or, conversely, obesity. When sleeping with the mouth open, a person may have some of these characteristics: restless sleep, snoring, headaches, drooling on the pillow, thirst when waking up, morning sleepiness, sleep apnea (breathing interruptions during sleep), and decreased oxygen saturation in the blood. Sleep disturbances that have been previously explained can generate agitation, anxiety, impatience, decreased levels of alertness, impulsiveness and discouragement. All of these changes can cause difficulties with attention, concentration, memory problems, and subsequent learning difficulties in children. During the critical periods of a child’s development, mouth breathing can be more detrimental to learning. It is common in mouth breathing children to have more colds, infections in the nose, throat and chronic ear infections. Ear infection may lead to hearing loss, speech problems, language delays and vestibular issues. It is important to pay close attention to children in such cases: listen well to determine if they have difficulty hearing in the presence of noise; if they are unable to answer questions or follow direction, or could be considered inattentive. Most common changes are hoarseness in voice. This is because of the constantly open mouth leading to a drying out of all the structures that produce the voice and because the muscles are contracted for a long time, they may also appear to frequently have a cold and a runny nose.
  • Does snoring contribute to the emergence of obstructive sleep apnea?
    Yes, due to constant vibration, the muscles of the mouth and throat become larger, and may bring about changes in size, width and thickness. This may contribute to the appearance of total or partial obstruction of breathing during sleep. Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome is defined as an obstruction of the airflow channel during sleep.
  • How could OMD be related to cases of snoring?
    Whoever snores and presents Obstructive Sleep Apnea should be treated by a multidisciplinary team including a sleep specialist. In this team, the Orofacial Myofunctional Specialist may help by directing and performing specific exercises to strengthen the muscles of the mouth and throat and exercises that may help, if indicated, in improving oral rest posture.
  • What is Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction?
    The term temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) is used to define some problems that can affect the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), as well as muscles and structures involved in chewing.
  • What Causes TMD?
    TMD may be related to various factors such as dental changes (loss or wear of the teeth, poorly fitting dentures), unilateral chewing, mouth breathing, lesions due to trauma or degeneration of the TMJ, muscle strains caused by psychological factors (stress and anxiety) and poor habits (nail biting, biting objects or food too hard, resting a hand on the chin, grinding or clenching teeth during sleep).
  • How is OMT carried out with patients with TMD?
    Most cases of TMD should be treated by a team of allied health professionals such as an Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy Specialist, dentist, psychologist, physical therapist, neurologist and otolaryngologist. The Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy Specialist, after conducting a thorough assessment, working in an allied approach, may apply techniques to rebalance the muscles of the mouth, face and neck, and restore the functions of breathing, chewing, and swallowing. With this, there may be attenuation and/or elimination of the signs and symptoms of TMD. The patient should be made aware about any harmful oral habits and oriented to contribute to the evolution of its clinical case.
  • What are the main signs and symptoms of TMD?
    Pain may be present around the TMJ (it may radiate to the head and neck), along with earache, tinnitus, ear fullness, sounds when opening or closing the mouth (popping or other noises in the TMJ), pain or difficulties when opening the mouth, and pain when moving the jaw and the muscles involved in chewing.
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