Myofunctional Therapy

The Truth About Tongue Ties

A tongue tie used to be thought of as a problem affecting babies with breast- feeding issues. Modern medicine and dentistry recognize dysfunctional patterns associated with tongue-ties can affect children and adults of all ages. Releasing a tongue-tie is an integral part of achieving optimal health.

A young blonde kid twisting his tongue

What is a Tongue-Tie?

A tongue-tie is known as a restricted lingual frenum or tethered oral tissue (TOT). The lingual frenum is a band of fibrous tissue under the tongue that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth. Everyone has one! Sometimes, the lingual frenum is too short or too tight and it can restrict tongue movement as well as preventing proper tongue position.

Why does this matter?

The tongue should fill the entire roof of the mouth (palate) which supports the upper jaw (maxilla). When your tongue is resting in this position it allows for proper facial development and allows more room for teeth to grow in straighter. A tongue-tie restricts the tongue to a low posture in your mouth. Because of this position, people who have a tongue-tie often mouth breathe which contributes to a host of dysfunctional symptoms. Chronic jaw pain, headaches, facial pain, teeth clenching and grinding (bruxism) along with orthodontic and dental issues are common in people with tongue-ties. Studies show that children who are tongue-tied often grow up to have sleep disordered breathing and airway issues.

Treating a tongue-tie?

Often, a tongue-tie will be treated surgically. This procedure is called a frenectomy, frenotomy or frenulectomy. It is a simple and quick procedure done by a dentist or doctor. Finding an experienced practitioner is important. It is very important to do pre-op myofunctional exercises to prepare and strengthen the tongue for the new range of motion it will experience post surgery. This is critical for a good outcome! The mouth heals quickly, so it is important to care for the wound and to do myofunctional therapy exercises to prevent reattachment. The tongue and oral structures will need to be trained and strengthened after the frenum is released. Think of it like other surgeries that require rehabilitation. The muscles in the tongue have never learned to move or achieve a proper resting position, so in this case, myofunctional therapy is like physical therapy, only for the mouth.

The good news is that treatment is easy, and the results are permanent and life changing!

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A young girl twisting her tongure

What is Myofunctional Therapy?

Myofunctional therapy is an exercise-based treatment modality. It is just like doing physical therapy, only for symptoms and conditions related to your face, mouth, and jaws. If you are breathing through your mouth or have a low resting tongue posture, you may need myofunctional therapy to help correct dysfunctional patterns and restore functional health.

Is Mouth Breathing Bad?

Breathing through the nose is the way the body is meant to breathe! Nasal breathing helps to filter the air we breathe, warm the air, and give us an important gas, nitric oxide, which releases more oxygen into our blood stream. But mouth breathing can reduce nitric oxide by as much as 50%. Mouth breathing can alter facial structures and negatively affect our oral health, even digestion. Signs of mouth breathing: small lower jaw (mandible) or underbite; long, narrow face; droopy eyes and mouth; flat facial features; bad breath, dental decay; periodontal (gum) disease stomach pains, gas, digestive issues snoring; sleep-disordered breathing prolonged orthodontic treatment; orthodontic relapse (after braces are removed); focus problems in children; chronic fatigue

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What is Low Resting Tongue Posture?

Your tongue provides a support structure for your jaw, so it should rest on your palate from the tip all the way to the back. When it rests on the floor of the mouth, this is called low-resting tongue posture. This is something myofunctional therapists pay close attention to.

Can Myofunctional Therapy Help Snoring?

Yes! Mouth breathing and snoring go hand in hand. If you can learn to breathe through your nose during the day (and night) and strengthen the muscles in the back of your throat, then you will snore less. Myofunctional therapy has been shown to help with other sleep disordered breathing patterns such as UARS (upper airway resistance syndrome) and mild to moderate sleep apnea.

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Can Adults Benefit from Myofunctional Therapy?

Absolutely! Children and adults can benefit from myofunctional therapy. In children, myofunctional therapy helps to correct and prevent dysfunctional patterns that could occur later in life. In adults, myofunctional therapy helps to correct dysfunctional patterns currently occurring.

Is Therapy Difficult?

No! Most patients need to practice 5 minutes a day, 2 times a day to achieve positive results. The exercises are simple and fun!

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A boy dozing off while writing on a book

Mouth Breathing

It is perfectly natural to breathe through your mouth at certain times, such as when lifting a heavy load or exercising.  Breathing through your mouth most of the time, however, can cause adverse health issues.  These health issues can be especially severe for children because it can affect the long-term development of the face.

Proper breathing constitutes taking in air through the nose. The nose is designed to act as a natural humidifier and filter system. When we cannot get enough air through our nose, our mouth takes over. Breathing through our mouth most of the time is not nature’s intent

What Could Cause Someone to Mouth Breathe?

Mouth breathing is a postural habit that can develop for numerous reasons. These are the most common:

  1. Allergies
  2. Thumb or finger sucking habit
  3. Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
  4. Chronic nasal congestion
  5. Respiratory Infection

Each one of these five factors can make it physically impossible for a person to nasal breathe.

Mouth breathing changes the way the tongue is positioned in the mouth. The tongue can develop a “tongue thrust”. A tongue thrust negatively affects speech, swallowing, breathing and chewing.

An asian woman sleeping

Facial Growth and Development

Believe it or not, habitually breathing through your mouth can change the shape of your face and alter your appearance. This is especially true of growing children.

Children whose mouth breathing goes untreated may suffer from abnormal facial and dental development. Symptoms can include long, narrow faces, narrow palate, less defined cheek bones, small lower jaw and “weak” chins. Other facial symptoms include gummy smiles and crooked teeth.

Mouth breathing can negatively affect orthodontic treatment. Treatment time can be longer and the chance for relapse after the braces are removed is greater.

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Other Effects on the Body

Using the mouth for breathing disrupts our natural body mechanics that can lead to:

  1. Headaches
  2. Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease
  3. Sore throat and cold symptoms
  4. Bad breath
  5. High risk for cavities
  6. Poor sleep-chronic fatigue
  7. Digestive disturbances such as gas, bloating, upset stomach, acid reflux, etc.

The root of the problem in many cases is a lack of oxygen. When we take in air through the mouth, less oxygen is absorbed into the bloodstream and more CO2 is absorbed.In children, breathing through the mouth while sleeping contributes to low oxygen levels. This can adversely affect sleep which in turn affects their growth and attention span. This has been linked to ADHD symptoms.

In adults, poor oxygen concentration in the bloodstream has been associated with high blood pressure, heart problems, snoring and sleep apnea.Mouth breathing causes postural changes as well. In order to open the airway, the head is positioned forward and the shoulders slump. This can lead to neck pain and headaches.These disorders are caused by the position of the tongue during mouth breathing.

What Can Be Done to Treat Mouth Breathing?

Mouth breathing can seem like an easy habit to break, right? Unfortunately, for people who struggle with mouth breathing, it is not easy. Habits are difficult to change. While mouth breathing, the muscles that affect our breathing: tongue, lips, cheeks, etc. have been trained in a “dysfunctional” manner. These muscles need to be “re-trained” to learn how to breathe through the nose to establish “normal function”.

A Myofunctional Therapist (MFT) can be an instrumental figure in helping you to learn to breathe in a healthy, “functional” manner. MFT’s are skilled at helping children and adults gain control over dysfunctional muscle patterning habits, including those involved in mouth breathing. If muscles are not re-trained, problems with speech, orthodontic treatment, dental health, swallowing, breathing and general health may persist through life. A consultation with a myofunctional therapist can be very valuable to assess and treat the dysfunctional mouth breathing habit. The issues associated with mouth breathing are easy to solve with a knowledgeable and understanding myofunctional therapist to guide you along the way.

General dentistry

Mouth Breathing and Your Health

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