What is myofunctional therapy?

Myofunctional therapy is an effective method to correct problems associated with the muscles of the face and the speaking zone. These generate several consequences and prevent carrying out basic functions.

Last update: November 11, 2021

Myofunctional therapy is a medical treatment that is carried out to correct imbalances in the orofacial muscles. It comprises a set of procedures and techniques that affect the rehabilitation of functions and the improvement of the aesthetics of a patient.

It must be said that the orofacial system comprises all the structures that make possible functions such as breathing, sucking, swallowing, speaking and phonation. The chewing muscles, facial expression, tongue, soft palate, pharynx and neck muscles take part in this.

Myofunctional therapy targets the orofacial muscles. However, it also affects the function of other structures in the area, such as the larynx and jaws.

What is myofunctional therapy?

Myofunctional therapy is defined as a set of procedures and techniques aimed at correcting imbalances in the orofacial muscles. Its objective is to create suitable patterns for the articulation of the word, to reduce harmful habits and improve the aesthetics of a person.

This type of therapy is also applied preventively, when it is detected that a person has inappropriate habits. However, it is more common as a method of rehabilitation.

There are several alterations that can cause imbalances in the orofacial muscles. Among the most frequent are facial or skull malformations, abnormalities in the structure of the teeth or jaw, injuries and trauma, degenerative diseases and strokes.

Alterations in the orofacial muscles lead to functional problems for the face and digestion, as well as speech impairment.

How does myofunctional therapy work?

Myofunctional therapy concentrates its work in three areas: oral, buccal and phonatory. As already noted, these areas have to do with basic functions such as speech, breathing, and swallowing. Likewise, with actions as essential as spitting, crying, vomiting or yawning.

In myofunctional therapy there are four phases: prevent, assess, diagnose and correct, either the malformations or harmful habits. To carry out this work, the following steps are carried out:

  1. Exploration and assessment: the professional assesses the orofacial area in detail to identify the presence of any abnormality.
  2. Diagnosis: It consists in establishing precisely what are the present anomalies and what specific affectations they cause. The description must be very detailed.
  3. Correction: a rehabilitation plan should be made with specific goals and exercises for each patient. This takes into account the age, pathology, cognitive level and general condition of each person.
  4. Assess evolution: in myofunctional therapy, a periodic assessment of progress should be made. This serves to make modifications in time if the expected results are not obtained.

Characteristics of myofunctional therapy

Myofunctional therapy should be led by a speech therapist. This is a professional specialized in communication disorders. Usually, the patient is referred to an otolaryngologist, an orthodontist, a pediatrician or a speech therapist.

However, the therapy is multidisciplinary. Under the coordination of the speech therapist, a speech therapist, an orthodontist and a physiotherapist also intervene. This is because there are usually several structures and functions involved in each case.

As is obvious, professionals must work in a coordinated and consistent manner. All together are oriented to solve the problems of speech, chewing, swallowing and breathing. Therapy can be active (with patient collaboration) or passive (without patient collaboration).

Myofunctional therapy uses tools such as the following:

  • Massages and direct manipulation of the area: the objective is to achieve greater sensitivity and mobility. Likewise, promote re-education against bad habits.
  • Use of textures and temperatures: focuses on working both hyposensitivity or less sensitivity in the area, as well as hypersensitivity or greater sensitivity in the area.

When is it useful?

The central purpose of myofunctional therapy is that the patient acquires greater control over the different areas of this zone, like the tongue, lips and palate. Likewise, to get rid of excessive tension in the jaw or neck, re-educate movements and correct habits.

This therapy is applicable to any anomaly that affects the orofacial muscles, be it of genetic, neurological, degenerative or temporary origin. It is almost always used to address situations such as the following:

  • Hypotonia or hypertonia.
  • Suction problems in neonates.
  • Speech disorders caused by disorders in the orofacial muscles.
  • Chewing difficulties.
  • Swallowing problems
  • Mouth breathing
  • Hypo or hypernasalization.
  • Temporo-mandibular joint problems.

These abnormalities are common in conditions such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, facial paralysis, and neurological diseases. Also after some surgical interventions in the area or after surgeries for vegetations or tonsillitis.

Professionals can provide exercises for patients to continue doing at home.

Benefits in function and aesthetics

Myofunctional therapy is one of the methods most used by speech therapists. It is effective for the restoration of correct oral habits, since these affect different functions such as speech and chewing.

It is frequent that the problems in the mentioned functions affect the facial appearance. Excessive jaw rigidity, failure to close the mouth and malformations alter aesthetics. That is why myofunctional therapy also provides benefits in this regard.

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