top of page
Girl sleeping with mouth open.png

Everything You Need to Know About Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (OMT)

Chances are you’ve heard of success stories from people who’ve done myofunctional therapy, but you’re still not sure what it is.

 

The fancy description is that OMT is the neuromuscular retraining or re-positioning of the mouth, jaw, tongue, and throat muscles to improve issues like poor facial structure, teeth grinding, and mouth breathing.

 

Myofunctional therapy treats facial disorders that influence how a person breathes, eats, chews, swallows, and speaks. All of these affect a person’s quality of life, which is why many patients who complete orofacial myofunctional therapy feel better than they’ve ever felt.

Common Signs of
Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMD)

OMT treats OMD!

It’s surprisingly common to experience disorders of the face and mouth muscles. Infants could be born with a tongue tie or a child could alter their teeth and jaw alignment through thumb sucking. Adults can experience injuries or feel pain and discomfort cause by misaligned teeth and muscles.

 

Orofacial myofunctional disorders can last for a lifetime if not treated with proper myofunctional therapy to strengthen the face, tongue, and jaw posture. Drs. Marvin L. Hanson and Robert M. Mason explain that approximately 30 to 40 percent of the population have a myofunctional disorder.

 

The negative health impacts of a tongue and jaw that aren’t properly positioned can’t be understated, but many people are uncertain about the signs of orofacial myofunctional disorders. This list of common disorders can help adults understand if they or their children may be suffering from OMD.

  • Tongue tie

  • Sleep apnea

  • Thumb sucking

  • Mouth breathing

  • Airway obstruction

  • Recessed lower jaw

  • Orthodontic instability

  • Chronic jaw and neck pain

  • Bruxism or teeth clenching

  • Shoulder and neck misalignment

  • Unresolved speech impediments

  • Dry mouth, gum disease, and halitosis

  • TMJ (temporomandibular joint movement)

  • Jaw malocclusions (overbite, underbite, misalignment)

How Myofunctional Therapy Works

Doing orofacial myofunctional therapy is like having a personal trainer for your face and mouth.

 

After your assessment is completed by a certified OMT therapist, you'll be given daily exercises to strengthen your tongue posture and re-align the muscles in your face, jaw, and throat.

With committed effort, you can see results in as little as 7 weeks, though most conditions take a few months to fully correct. A few examples of how myofunctional therapy works to correct common concerns are included here.

Recommended by:

sleep dentists

sleep specialists

airway specialists

speech therapists

functional medicine practitioners

Sleep Apnea and Snoring

When the tongue is strong and suctioned to the top of the mouth, it won't rest against the back of the throat, restricting the airway. Completing targeted exercises to strengthen the tongue's resting position and improve nasal breathing can help adults breathe easier at night. That means no snoring or sleep apnea!

Waking Exhausted

Teeth clenching is impossible for your body to maintain throughout the night. In order to fully rest, the body must relax all muscles. By completing myofunctional therapy exercises, adults and children enjoy less jaw tension and pain, which allows them to rest more fully throughout the night.

Mouth Breathing

Breathing through your mouth is a sign of respiratory distress. It means your body is not receiving enough oxygen to facilitate blood flow to the rest of the body. OMT has numerous exercises that retrain your mouth to stay closed with your tongue sitting in the proper position so that nasal breathing is comfortable and sufficient.

Not all tongue ties require a frenectomy (surgical intervention). However, if a tongue tie does need to be released surgically, then the dentist will recommend that the patient completes several weeks of orofacial myofunctional therapy first. This helps ensure the muscles will adapt to the release for faster results.

Speech Articulation

Some exercises may be ideal for children or adults who struggle to articulate certain letters like sh, s, z, or even t. In this case, orofacial myofunctional therapy would help children learn how to properly position their tongue. Many speech therapists involve the help of OMT therapists to fully improve a child's speech.

Tongue Tie

Weak Tongue

OMT therapists are the ideal people to help patients improve the strength of their tongue, which can improve their vagus nerve function. (This nerve affects breathing and digestion.) Strong tongues should be able to hold certain positions for several seconds and rest at the top of the mouth for optimal air flow through the nose.

See how OMT has helped people like you!

My wife said I snored every night and a sleep study showed I had mild sleep apnea. After myofunctional therapy, I am breathing calmly all night. My wife sleeps better, too!

Kent J.

Top Videos About OMT

Typical Myofunctional Therapy Exercises

Orofacial myofunctional therapy exercises can be quite entertaining to do! Though the movements may seem silly (especially to kids), each one has a specific method and purpose.

 

Done correctly and consistently, these techniques will open restricted airways, improve facial structure, align the jaw, release tension, and so much more. These are a few exercises you'll learn to do with Kristen!

Using her Happy Mouth app, you'll start with simple exercises to strengthen your mouth and tongue before moving to more advanced techniques. A myofunctional kit from the Association of Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (AOMT) is essential for success, but Kristen's clients get a discount!

face graphic.png

FACE

  • Button pull

  • Puff

  • Pump

mouth graphic.png

NOSE & MOUTH

  • 3 elastic hold

  • Lip rest

  • One nostril breath

tongue graphic.png

TONGUE

  • Tongue push 1

  • Tongue point

  • Tongue suction

throat graphic.png

THROAT

  • Ahhh

  • Tongue depressor

  • Bite block swallow

FAQ About Myofunctional Therapy

What is orofacial myofunctional therapy?

OMT is a neuromuscular retraining of the mouth, jaw, tongue, and throat muscles. It's like doing physical therapy for your mouth and face to work in harmony. When some face and jaw muscles are not pulling their weight, the other muscles must compensate. This leads to disfunction that shows up as orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMD). Common disorders are teeth clenching, mouth breathing, sleep apnea, misaligned jaw, and much more. Orofacial myofunctional therapy is the non-invasive method to retrain weak or misaligned muscles for better respiration, less tension, and improved vitality.

How can OMT help jaw joint pain, strain, or tension?

Jaw joint pain often stems from a jaw that’s functioning improperly due to a number of causes. The pain or tension can occur from an accident or injury, or it may have started at birth with bottle feeding and thumb sucking. Other causes of jaw pain could be from tongue restrictions like a tongue tie or a narrow mouth. The tongue has 16 muscles that all connect to the jaw or skull. If some of those muscles are not doing their jobs then other muscles must compensate, creating a domino effect that constantly pulls on the jaw joint. Myofunctional therapy helps to improve the alignment of the facial muscles so that the jaw can sit naturally without being pulled or staying tense.

Can myofunctional therapy help me sleep better?

Breathing seems like such a simple task, but it can easily get messed up if your airway is restricted. You may think you’re breathing fine at night, but some commons signs that you’re getting poor rest can include light sleeping, snoring, sleep apnea, or waking exhausted after 7 to 8 hours of sleep. These issues are called breathing disorders, and OMT is the perfect way to solve them. You’ll learn to expand your airway through neuromuscular exercises so your tongue rests at the top of your mouth instead of at the back of your throat. Sleep will come more naturally, and you’ll wake up more rested. In fact, this is the #1 improvement that my patients experience after several weeks of orofacial myofunctional therapy.

How long does orofacial myofunctional therapy take?

Each person has different needs and structural variations, so an individual assessment is needed to customize a treatment plan. For most patients, OMT takes about 8 to 9 months. The first three months will establish proper functional habits in the mouth and throat. The next several months will help the head and neck improve their support and alignment of the changes in the mouth, throat, and face. The only way to experience the improvement you're seeking is to be dedicated to doing the exercises on a daily basis. You'll need to meet with your OMT therapist regularly to ensure the technique maintains the proper form rather than promotes a worse position.

How long is an OMT session and how often do we meet?

Your first consultation will take 50 minutes. Then we'll meet weekly for 30 to 40 minutes for the duration of the treatment plan. (We can schedule breaks for vacations!) It's critical to meet with a therapist on a regular basis. Why? Because it's easy to do these exercises incorrectly, which will reinforce poor alignment and prevent progress.

How do I know if I need myofunctional therapy?

Do you struggle to breathe easily through your nose? Do you wake up exhausted after a full night's sleep? Do you breathe through your mouth during the day or night? Do you have jaw pain or reduced jaw function? Do you have a small mouth that crams your tongue? Do you struggle to get enough air? Does your tongue thrust forward? Do you have an overbite, underbite, a misaligned bite, or recessed jaw? Do you snore or have sleep apnea? If any of these apply, you'd likely benefit from OMT.

Do I have to practice OMT every day?

If you want to experience the results you're seeking, then daily exercise is the way to go. You'll have 3 sets of exercises to complete each day using the app. These exercises will change as you progress and strengthen your muscles. OMT is like any physical therapy where it will take time to see results, but it's absolutely worth it.

Will I have to do myo therapy exercises for the rest of my life?

No! With regular exercise during the treatment period, your mouth, jaw, and tongue will be strong enough to maintain their new habits.

What's the most common reason that OMT doesn't work?

A lack of practice! As with any therapy, dedicated effort over time is what will make the difference. Patients who can make the time each day and week for myofunctional therapy see the best results. Without practice, OMT can't help improve the patient's health concerns. Another reason OMT might not work is if a dentist has recommended using an appliance and the patient doesn't wear it often enough. Sometimes the mouth is too small for the tongue and an expander or spacer is necessary to help improve the airway. OMT works to reinforce the structural changes of a mouth appliance.

Do I have to get an x-ray?

It's highly recommended that a patient schedule a Cone Beam CT scan (CBCT). This is ideal if the patient expects to have a tongue tie release (frenectomy) or they have persistent jaw pain. Many OMT therapists work virtually with clients, but an airway specialist, orthodondist, or sleep dentist may be able to help you schedule a scan.

My dentist says I have a tongue tie, but it doesn't bother me. Should I do anything about it?

A tongue tie has negative affects on the jaw and airway even if you don't realize it. More often than not, patients have adapted to the pain or strain without realizing it. Ankyloglossia (a tongue tie) leads to muscle fatigue in the mouth and jaw, which creates head and neck strain, poor jaw growth, and a narrow airway. These issues cause patients to experience things like difficulty breathing, sleep apnea, snoring, and even digestive issues in some cases. If you're unsure that you need to deal with a tongue tie, speak with an orofacial myofunctional therapist to see how your tongue posture can be improved for better vitality.

How can I learn even more about orofacial myofunctional therapy?

We have lots of information on our Resources page where you can watch other videos or find books written by a variety of experts on airway, OMT, and so much more.

FAQ
bottom of page