The ideal time to start myofunctional therapy depends on your individual needs. I address issues, such as tongue ties, tongue thrust and mouth breathing, that can make the orthodontic process more challenging.
The Tongue & Lips: Nature's Orthodontics
If left untreated, tongue ties, mouth breathing or tongue thrust can cause problems with orthodontic treatment. In developing children and teens, the tongue should act as a natural expander for the palate (roof of your mouth) if the tongue habitually rests against the palate as it should. When the tongue is tethered to the floor of the mouth through a tongue tie, it can limit or prevent this natural expansion and can cause further problems such as mouth breathing and tongue thrust. When the lips are toned and properly closed at rest, they help to act as natural braces to keep the teeth in alignment. Mouth breathing prevents this from happening and can allow the teeth to shift.
With untreated tongue thrust, the tongue rests against the back of the teeth instead of up against the palate. This light, constant pressure against the teeth, coupled with the increased force against the teeth with every swallow, can move teeth out of alignment. These conditions are ideally corrected before or during orthodontic treatment, but after is always better than never. Once the braces come off, your teeth may start to shift if these poor oral habits are left unchecked.
Is It Too Late For Myofunctional Therapy?
Children's bodies and faces are constantly changing, with craniofacial growth continuing well into the teens. Early childhood, a period of rapid craniofacial growth, is an ideal time to start myofunctional therapy to achieve optimal results. However, myofunctional therapy can be beneficial at any stage to help you strengthen the muscles of the lips, cheeks, tongue and throat and create new habits that will help ensure that your orthodontic results will last a lifetime.
Our Modern Diet
The muscles of our face and tongue are strengthened by chewing. Over time, our modern diet has evolved to include more soft foods (think yogurt, smoothies and overcooked vegetables) that require little, if any, chewing and often excludes or limits the hard, crunchy foods (think jerky, nuts and raw vegetables) that help our facial structures to grow and function properly. High, narrow palates, and the associated problems with breathing, crowding of teeth, jaw pain and sleep issues, are far more common now than they were in the past. A strong tongue that is exercised by vigorous chewing and properly resting against the palate serves as a natural expander for the palate during the years of craniofacial growth.
I work closely with your orthodontist, dentist, doctor and other health providers to help you get the most out of your orthodontic treatment and achieve the lasting benefits that come from learning proper breathing, posture and function. The best timing to begin myofunctional therapy treatment can vary based on your individual needs and the recommendation of your orthodontist.
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