What Does "Myofunction" Mean?
‘Myo’ is the Greek word for muscle. From the moment we are born, the ‘function’ or activity of our oral muscles such as the tongue, lips, and cheeks will determine the position, shape and size of our facial bones, and hence how our teeth fit. Correct function of these oral muscles will achieve good structure of the face and associated bones, resulting in stable, straight teeth. The converse is also true.
Why Myofunctional Orthodontics?
We all want the very best for our children, but an astounding 75% of them develop crowded teeth and have incorrect jaw alignment.
The standard advice given to parents is to wait until all the permanent teeth have erupted, usually about the age of 12-14 years, before embarking on an orthodontic pathway.
This really does not make sense as growth and development of the mid-face is completed by this time.
Myofunctional (muscle) habits such as:
- Mouth breathing
- Tongue thrusting
- Incorrect swallowing
- Thumb sucking etc.
are the REAL CAUSES of crooked teeth.
It is now very well documented that many children display and adopt abnormal muscle habits of the lips, cheeks and tongue in the early stages of life.
These bad habits adversely affect jaw development and the positioning of erupting teeth, by limiting the child’s normal forward facial growth.
Dentists and Orthodontists are becoming increasingly aware that when a child’s teeth are crooked, their facial growth and development is negatively affected.
When ignored, they are responsible for orthodontic relapse and instability at least, and many of the supposed 'unconnected' health problems at a much more serious and worrying level.
Did you know?
Early orthodontic treatment can be simpler, shorter and more favourable than treating at a later age. In children, dental cross-bite does not always cause facial lop-sideness or abnormal jaw movement. However, if facial lop-sideness is present it will worsen during growth without orthodontic treatment.
Very little force is required to move a front tooth, the lower lip alone can exert an inward force of up to 300gms on the teeth (over 150 times greater than moving a tooth with an orthodontic appliance) and that the tongue can exert up to 500gms of force on the teeth (Over 250 times greater than moving a tooth with an orthodontic appliance). This means that the teeth will sit into whatever position they get pushed by the tongue, lips and cheeks.
Can Crooked Teeth Be Prevented? YES.
In order to have straight teeth your child needs correct Myofunctional Habits:
Children should habitually breath through nose not though the mouth
Lips together at rest
Tongue resting in the roof of the mouth
No muscle movement around mouth during sub-conscious swallow
No thumb, digit or non-nutritive sucking habits
Genetics, although it has a role to play, it is not the major player.
To summarise: The muscles of the Lips, Cheeks and Tongue are really the bullies, and determine bone and hence tooth alignment.
Their activity, positive or negative undoubtedly controls a child’s facial growth and development, and tooth positioning.
Did you know?
That breastfeeding places beneficial orthopaedic forces on the jaws, similar to the forces of Functional Jaw orthopaedics.
The Functional Orthodontist – 2001
Parents: What to look-out for in your own child:
Is your child a Mouth Breather or Nose Breather?
Tip: Quietly observe your child sleeping at night. Are they sleeping with their mouth open or closed?
Are the lips apart at rest?
Tip: When sitting down say watching T.V., is the mouth open or closed?
Are the chin muscles being used in order to bring the lips together? Maybe termed "Pursing the lips"
Do the lips move when the child swallows, when not eating or drinking?
Does the lower lip rest on or behind the upper front teeth?
If you answered YES to any of these your child may have a Myofunctional problem.
When Should Treatment Begin?
The lower jaw completes its growth phase at approximately 20 years of age but a child’s upper jaw stops widening at approximately 12 years of age. On average by 8 years about 80%, and by 4 years about 60% of this growth is completed.
It is therefore imperative to capture this short ‘window of opportunity’ to promote correct muscular function, establish nasal breathing, and encourage forward facial growth, all of which not only result in a stable bite (good occlusion) and straight teeth, but greatly enhances the facial appearance.
It is now possible to help children to modify these destructive patterns and as a result not only see an improvement in the growth and development of the face, jaws, and dentition, but in their overall health and wellbeing.
What Are The Advantages Of Starting Early?
The younger we can start treatment with a child the better (5+)
They have had less time for these bad habits to become ingrained
They can benefit greatly while the mid face is still developing (remember, the child's face is 60% grown by age 4)
It is easier and quicker to correct Myofunctional Disorders when the child is still growing
It is easier to establish Nasal Breathing and benefit from the all the Health consequences
What Are The Advantages of Myofunctional Orthodontics?
Identifies the causes of crooked teeth and mis-aligned jaws at a young age, and allows for early intervention treatment in an non-invasive manner
Treats the CAUSES of crooked teeth in the growing child, capturing the 'Short Window Of Opportunity' that exists to promote positive facial growth before the age of 12 years.
Has positive benefits for the tooth alignment, facial appearance, posture, and general health in young children and all patients
Does not require the use of full "Fixed Braces", if treated early enough, thus saving parents the cost of fixed braces later
Benefits of Nasal Breathing, including less ENT infections such as ear, throat and chest infections, sinus problems, and Asthma
Improves sleeping pattern (better REM sleep)
Improved Facial Growth and attractiveness
Avoids future TMJ problems
Health benefits such as improved posture (standing straighter with head over shoulders)
Improved stability post orthodontic treatment without the need for long term retention
These destructive habits cannot be corrected with fixed braces. Myofunctional Orthodontics is the only treatment that addresses and corrects the causes of CROOKED teeth.