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The Role of Myofunctional Therapy in Pediatric Dentistry

Posted on 11/15/2023 by Andrew Admin
Smiling boy with missing tooth, at Portland, OR.Though some oral habits like thumb sucking are commonplace in childhood, prolonged dysfunctional behaviors can alter a child's dental development and facial growth. Myofunctional therapy provided by specially trained pediatric dentists aims to curb these harmful habits and promote proper orofacial muscle function for ideal facial growth and smile aesthetics.

Common Habits That Can Cause Concern

Prolonged digit or pacifier sucking, abnormal tongue thrusting, chronic mouth breathing due to enlarged tonsils, improper swallowing technique, and constant teeth clenching or bruxism can all negatively impact a child's bite and facial profile over time. Intervening while a child's facial bones and muscles still have substantial growth allows for establishing ideal alignment and function.

The Impacts of Poor Oral Habits on the Developing Mouth

Excessive abnormal pressure from improper oral habits gradually molds the pliable, growing jaw bones. This can result in open bites, narrow dental arches, tooth crowding, dental protrusion, and lip incompetence. The dysfunctional habits continue through learned muscle memory engrained in the child. Myofunctional therapy aims to retrain the orofacial muscles.

The Components of Myofunctional Therapy

First, any physical obstructions like enlarged adenoids are addressed if present to allow normal nasal breathing. Next, specific exercises are used to strengthen and re-pattern the tongue and facial muscles to achieve proper form and function. For example, pressing the tongue correctly to the roof of the mouth promotes proper swallowing technique. Cheeks and lips get exercised as well to support overall muscular balance.

Tools to Help Cease Harmful Habits

Problematic habits get replaced with cued reminders and physical deterrents. Various oral appliances and chew devices provide oral stimulation while keeping digits or pacifiers away from the mouth. Frequent positive reinforcement helps re-establish correct resting oral posture and function. Close follow-up ensures consistency in eliminating the dysfunction.

By proactively curbing muscle imbalances early in development, myofunctional therapy can both eliminate negative habits and guide proper facial growth. This complements future potential orthodontic treatment as well. Multidisciplinary pediatric dental care promotes healthy smiles for the long term.

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