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Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy

Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy

The important role of our muscles

As with elsewhere in the body, muscles drive and control movement and result in our ability to move and function. In the Oro (mouth) Facial (face) region, many muscles are involved in performing the most basic of functions like breathing, chewing and swallowing. The activity of these muscles, which include the tongue (which has been described as the ‘architect of the face’ and the ‘rudder of the body’), guide the way our teeth, face, jaws and airway develop during childhood and teenage years. Just as important are the muscles guiding the TMJ and breathing in the adult years because they have a direct influence on jaw function and correct airway function for healthy, nasal breathing.

What happens when things go wrong

Dysfunction (abnormal function) of these muscles can result from unhelpful habits (like thumb sucking, mouth breathing, clenching etc) as well as constraints of these muscles due to physical restrictions such as a tongue tie (which can affect the swallowing movements and the ability for the tongue to rest comfortably on the roof of the mouth). This leads to suboptimal muscle activity, which compromises the hard tissue structures and their activity (upper and lower jaws, teeth and jaw joints). For example, a tongue that does not rest on the roof of the mouth (as it should), provides no opportunity for the upper part of the mouth (the maxilla) to grow sufficiently wide and can result in a narrowed shape. The outcome is teeth crowding and a narrower nasal airway – leading to possible ‘airway related’ issues like snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea.

How is that related to your jaw and face issues

Adults who have developed muscular dysfunction in the early years often present with pre-existing issues when older. These cause additional mechanical load to their jaws (TMJs) and neck due to stress related clenching, mouth breathing, poor posturing or other habits etc. Oral dysfunction can develop into signs and symptoms of orofacial pain, and can manifest as jaw pain, headaches, ear related symptoms and a variety of other presentations


Our Multidisciplinary treatment approach to address these issues includes:
  • TMJ Physiotherapy to the jaw, neck and face structures to settle pain, reduce spasm and inflammation and improve joint function.
  • Education regarding lifestyle factors such as postures and habits that need to be modified.
  • Self management techniques and exercises for the neck and jaw.
  • Specific Dental evaluation to identify any other dental / airway related issues that may need further investigation or the prescription of a very specific type of occlusal splint to not only protect the teeth but also to improve the way the jaw sits and influences the airway.
  • Once most symptoms are under control, the original muscular dysfunction may persist as old habits and longstanding movement patterns.
  • Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy addresses these issues through a very specialized approach to identifying these dysfunctions and prescribing individually tailored exercises to correct the sequence of oral and facial muscle function.
Goals of Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy
The 5 Pillars of Optimal Function of the orofacial muscles and joints is to achieve:
  • Healthy breathing using the diaphragm muscles, combined with nasal breathing (helps filter the air breathed, promotes better levels of oxygenation, a more relaxed nervous system, reduces pain, reduces blood pressure)
  • A competent lip seal (to ensure nasal breathing)
  • Correct tongue function and oral resting position (which allows for related jaw and neck muscles to relax as well)
  • A correct swallow pattern (thus not bringing into play accessory neck and face muscles)
  • Relaxed jaw and face muscles (which tighten due to stress and abnormal activity)
How Is Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy Provided

Our experienced Orofacial Myofunctional Therapists (OMT’s) work closely with our TMJ Physiotherapists (and TMJ / Sleep Dentist when required) and their inclusion in the treatment process is a logical progression where essential muscle function still needs addressing. As an integral part of our team, all your case notes and prior treatment information is right at their fingertips, ensuring a seamless transition from in-practice Physiotherapy based treatment to a more convenient TeleHealth live video based format (so you don’t have to battle traffic and hassle with parking). Given that we are addressing Jaw and face related issues, our Telehealth format means that this process is easy to do, convenient to access and effective in its outcomes.

Consultations are 30 mins and conducted easily via a Video link provided in your appointment confirmation email or reminder SMS. Other than a computer or smartphone and a relatively quiet environment no other technology is required. During your appointment your OMT will assess you (and together with information provided by your TMJ Physiotherapist or TMJ / Sleep Dentist) will determine which retained oral motor dysfunctions require addressing (this includes breathing technique). ‘Treatment’ is by prescription of the exact exercises required to address these identified issues. All prescribed exercises / techniques are also sent in video format so that you can practice and master each technique between OMT sessions. Therapy tools and props (like things to chew on, blow into and exercise with) will be provided to you prior to your treatments


Why Should I Even Bother and How Many Treatments Will I Need

Achieving optimal orofacial function is essential for your recovery from TMD (pain, muscle tightness, headaches etc.) Improving muscle function and developing optimal functional habits is a process. After all, the dysfunction did not develop overnight. The rewards for being dedicated to improving the identified issues will be far reaching. Health benefits are numerous. These can include a healthier breathing pattern, improved sleep quality, improved levels of energy and a more relaxed head / neck and face, so you can look forward to focusing on the things that are important to you – and not having to deal with pain.

The first step in making these important changes is becoming aware of the issues. The second step is having a specific plan of action. Your experienced OMT will help identify these dysfunctions and then assist you in progressing through each stage of muscle re-education and retraining. The number of appointments will of course vary depending on your specific needs but treatments are usually 4-8 sessions roughly every 2 weeks

Will I Still Need To See My TMJ Physiotherapist

Our Team approach is successful as we all bring different skills and aspects to your treatment process and this helps you achieve the best possible outcome. Your Physiotherapist may still recommend periodic hands on treatment to improve the mobility of your jaw, head and neck structures as well as to revise / progress your Physio exercises (as distinct from your Myofunctional Exercises).

The human body is complex, and sometimes a situation may occur that could result in a temporary flare up of symptoms. When required, a hands-on treatment with your Physiotherapist to settle any symptoms will still be beneficial. With our team approach, both therapists will be collaborating to determine the best way forward in this situation for you to keep on track towards achieving your goals.

Payment and Private Health Rebates

Unfortunately, Private Health Funds do not provide a rebate for Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy. Payment is required before your appointment and is made at the time of booking. Payment is via credit card on a secure online platform (used by thousands of Health Practices).

Next Steps

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