Myofunctional Therapy

What is Myofunctional Therapy?

Myofunctional therapy is a special treatment program designed to correct the improper function of the tongue and facial muscles. Just as physical therapy rehabilitates muscles in the body that aren’t operating at peak performance, Myofunctional Therapy is a program that involves strengthening of the tongue and orofacial muscles by teaching individuals how to engage the muscles to the appropriate position to retrain the soft tissues of the face, neck, and mouth. Training the tongue and facial muscles to work optimally helps to promote proper breathing, which positively impacts a person’s overall well being. 

At Monterey Peninsula Dental Group, myofunctional therapy is a foundational aspect of our broader airway treatment regimen and may include treating other underlying causes of sleep apnea or TMJ disorder. Our Myofunctional Therapy program is effective for both children and adults and can improve the way our patients sleep, speak & breathe. Each regimen is completely customized depending on your individual needs. 

If you have pursued treatment with other medical professionals for airway issues and were unsuccessful or if you’re just looking to achieve better health and optimal performance, you may benefit from Myofunctional Therapy at MPDG.

How Does Myofunctional Therapy Work?

Myofunctional Therapy is a combination of exercise regimens that are designed to strengthen the muscles in the cheeks, tongue, lips, jaw and mouth. After an initial consultation to properly evaluate and diagnose your current orofacial patterns, treatment is typically segmented into 3 phases: intensive, habituation, and naturalization. Each phase involves customized sessions with our therapist Kim along with exercises you’ll perform between sessions.

Intensive Phase – 8-11 weekly visits to work on coordinating muscle to work together to attain proper function. This includes nasal breathing, facial muscles, tongue, lips and swallowing exercises.

Habituation Phase – biweekly to triweekly visits to work on exercises that are tailored to maintain new patterns and proper function of nasal breathing, tongue posture, lip posture and swallowing, which helps your body begin to normalize and integrate these behaviors day and night! 

Naturalization Phase – 4 monthly visits for monitoring and evaluation to refine your breathing and muscle tone in order to optimize your health and performance. Afterwards, patients typically schedule follow-up visits as necessary. 

How Does Myofunctional Therapy Help?

The journey to proper airway health involves improving both your airway structure, function and behavior. Myofunctional Therapy targets all of these components using your body’s own ability to retain muscle memory. 

So how would proper breathing improve your health? If you’re breathing dysfunctionally, the result is an improper stimulation of the Vagus nerve, which is the largest nerve in the body and tied to many body functions.  This lack of stimulation puts the body in sympathetic or “fight or flight” mode. Breathing improperly while sleeping (heavy breathing or snoring) will trigger higher levels of adrenaline (sympathetic stimulation), disrupting the body’s natural sleep cycles.  Learning to breathe properly would do the opposite.  Functional breathing techniques stimulate the parasympathetic state or “rest and digest” mode and creates an environment of optimal body function. 

What Conditions Does Myofunctional Therapy Help?

In addition to helping restore natural breathing and chewing/swallowing patterns, there are multiple conditions that Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy has been able positively impact, including:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS)
  • Headaches
  • Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ)
  • Acid reflux or heartburn
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • ADD or ADHD
  • Fatigue.
  • Mouth breathing
  • Hypertension
  • Tongue thrusting and more… 

Sleep apnea and UARS are two sleep disorders in particular that have seen significant positive results from Myofunctional Therapy. Myofunctional Therapy can be a helpful alternative to treating both these conditions with long-term results. Contact us today to learn more about Myofunctional Therapy or to schedule a consultation appointment.

Kim Coming, RDH

Myofunctional Therapist & Buteyko Educator

Kim is originally from San Diego, CA where she received an A.S. degree in science after completion of the dental hygiene program at the Higher Education Center at Southwestern College in 2010. She has been part of the team at the Monterey Peninsula Dental Group for 10 years.

After learning about Orofacial myofunctional functional disorders and having treatment herself, Kim decided to pursue Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (OMT) and joined the Academy of Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (AOMT) in 2018. In 2019, Kim became a Buteyko Breathing Re-educator taught by Patrick Mckowen. In 2022, she attended a course by Barbara Greene who has been an OMT for 50 years! Kim also became a member of International Association Airway Hygienists in 2020.

It has been very rewarding for Kim to help her patients reach optimum health not only dentally but also whole body health. Kim is excited to be part of a very special dental-medical role to help her patients sleep better, breathe better and enjoy a better quality of life!

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