Functional disorders related to breathing and swallowing can be diagnosed and treated in early childhood to prevent malocclusion and more importantly a lot of health conditions that may appear later in life. This article introduces readers to a new speciality: Orofacial Myotherapy.
A Remedy for Malocclusion and Functional Disorders
Problems related to breathing and eating are common in children. These are very important functions of oro-facial region which if gone wrong may affect growth (physical as well as mental), posture of the body, sleep, and development of jaws and alignment of teeth, and overall health over a life course.
Correcting functions at an early age can improve the quality of life of an individual from infancy through adulthood. If left untreated, the effects of functional disorders may have a profound effect of growth and development and performance of the individual. Studies have reported that mouth-breathing is a major risk factor for tension-headache, sleep apnea, hypertension, stroke, etc.
Oro-facial myotherapy deals with the correction of functions by
Inculcating nasal breathing for better respiration leading to better oxygenation of blood (which presents numerous advantages) and pneumatic growth of the face and jaws and
Correcting the posture and movements of tongue and lip muscles for proper swallowing and chewing.
Functional disorders in children may have varied manifestations as summarized in the table.
Correction of functional disorders while also correcting the alignment of teeth and smile is possible by early treatment. The treatment of most functional disorders in children is relatively simple and non-invasive. In only a few advanced conditions, surgical interventions may be needed. The treatment usually comprises of
Exercises for correction of breathing, swallowing, tongue and lip posture
Appliance therapy for oro-facial development
A Few Frequently Asked Questions:
Is “dental treatment” sufficient for correcting such important functional disorders?
Mouth is the mirror in which reflects the health of the body. Often dental conditions are indicators and markers of the unseen or future conditions that affect health. The ill-effects of functional disorders such as mouth breathing, improper swallowing, etc. may be noticed early by us, dentists. Recent research has widened the spectrum of dentistry so that we can work on correcting the functional disorders while also correcting the smile! We also work in collaboration with pediatricians, ENT surgeons and other health professionals. Although, the dental outcomes are our immediate goal (such as correction of the alignment of teeth), we work towards improving overall health and well-being of children.
Should one go for aligning teeth with the Oro-facial myotherapy or “Fixed Braces”?
Fixed braces are recommended when crooked teeth have to be moved and aligned for desirable aesthetics and smile. However, only braces cannot correct the functional problems and achieve proper facial development. Furthermore, often treatment with braces demands extractions of teeth; which can be substantially avoided with myotherapy. Often, treatment with braces is not permanent, may lead to relapse (teeth becoming malaligned and crooked again) and require long term or life-time retention with either night-time wear plates or fixed wires on inside of teeth. With the natural development resulting from the myotherapy, the results are the outcome of natural growth and development and durable.
Oro-facial myotherapy has the potential to benefit in three manners
Pre-orthodontic: for functional correction before fixed braces are recommended
Orthodontic: As a replacement for fixed braces for complete correction of alignment of teeth and development of jaws
Supplemental to fixed orthodontic: During and after the treatment with fixed braces and for functional correction and additional development of jaws, and retention (prevention of relapse, naturally)
Is alignment of teeth and development of jaws a genetic/ hereditary phenomenon?
The answer is yes and no. As they say: Form is decided by functions. Although the growth is genetically programmed, the “epigenetic” mechanism can supersede the genetic outcomes (form) by altering the functions. Behavioural and lifestyle factors during early childhood (inadequate breast feeding, improper nutrition, recurrent infections, allergens from environment, etc.) can alter the functions and thereby the form, “epigenetically”. Oro-facial myotherapy works in the domain of epigenetic control of growth and development by remediating the functions and thereby the form.
Can Orofacial Myotherapy benefit only children?
No! Although, myotherapy can be started in children as soon as the problems are apparent, it is possible to treat several problems such as snoring, sleep disturbances (sleep disordered breathing and sleep apnoea), bruxism, tension-headaches, and even the crooked teeth in adults!
Improper alignment of teeth and development of jaws are only the symptoms. Treating only the symptoms will not correct the cause. Treating the functional disorders is treating the root cause. Orofacial Myotherapy has a motto: “Oral Health to Total Health”. We want each child to breath well, eat well, sleep well, grow well, and live long and healthy life.
Dr Ashwin M. Jawdekar
MDS (Pediatric Dentistry, Mumbai) MSc, DDPH (Dental Public Health, London) PGD (Hospital Administration, Hyderabad), PG Cert (Dental Practice Management, UK)
smiles-&-MORE (Dental and Myofacial Orthodontic Remediation Enterprise) Office No. 6, First Floor, Above ICICI ATM, Amrapali Arcade, Vasant Vihar, Thane (W) 400610
little smiles (Dental care Centre for Children) 102, Silverline Apartments, Opp. Holy Cross School, Castle Mill Junction, Thane (W) 400601
Global Ambassador- Global Child Dental Fund
Professor and Head, Dept. of Pediatric and Preventive Dentistry, Dr GD Pol Foundation's YMT Dental College and Hospital, Kharghar, Navi Mumbai 410210 (India)