What Are the Main Reasons for Airway Difficulties in Children?
May 1st, 2017
Children form a number of habits as they mature, some as a result of standard growing pains, others as compensation techniques for specific physiological shortcomings. While many of these habits often appear to be relatively harmless and may even fade over time, others can have a cascade effect on the child's health as he or she matures, creating problems that last well into adulthood. These should not be ignored, as they may also signal a more serious underlying cause.
Any difficulty in breathing, no matter how seemingly small, can cause children to start new and potentially unhealthy habits. These can initiate a variety of problems during the formative years that lead to more serious problems later in life, such as migraines, digestive problems, snoring, sleep apnea and even cognitive impairment.
Early warning signs that can appear in younger children include behavioral problems, attention issues, talkativeness, asthma, bedwetting and teeth grinding. Pay special attention during mealtime, as fast or noisy eating, gulping, burping and general messiness may also pose telltale signs of airway dysfunction.
Causative factors for these issues often include tongue posture and airway difficulties, both of which can be diagnosed by an orofacial myofunctional therapist and possibly eliminated through treatment if caught at a young age.
Below are some of the most common causes of airway difficulties in children. Detecting and treating these issues can provide immediate relief and prevent long-term health problems before they arise.
Habitual Thumb Sucking
A common cause of breathing difficulties in children is frequent thumb sucking. Prolonged practice can alter a child's mouth structure and create issues like tongue thrust, interrupted sleep patterns, crooked teeth and even difficulties with normal speech. Maintaining this habit for months or years can train the tongue and jaw to sit in a forward or low position, pulling it away from the palate and forcing the child to breathe through the mouth in order to maintain sufficient air intake.
Discovering the root cause of this coping mechanism is just as important as correcting it. Proper diagnosis and early treatment are incredibly powerful prevention tools.
Frequent Bottle Feeding
Similar to the thumb sucking habit, frequent bottle feeding can have an adverse effect on a child's breathing, tongue position, and facial development. The normal swallowing pattern during breastfeeding involves a wave-like motion in the mouth. The tongue moves liquid to the back of the throat using gentle peristalsis that starts with the tip of the tongue. Bottle feeding, however, encourages a static, low tongue position, eliminating the wave motion as the child forcefully pulls their tongue back like a sliding piston.
Frequent bottle feeding trains the tongue to stay forward and away from the roof of the mouth, an unnatural position for both breathing and swallowing. An infant that breastfeeds for a year and then bottle feeds for three months will have fewer health and developmental difficulties than a child of the same age who has only been bottle fed.
Sippy Cup Use
While sippy cups may be convenient for adults and easy for kids, relying on them encourages improper swallowing habits and poor tongue position. Similar to the movement issues described in bottle feeding, the mouthpiece of sippy cups holds the front of the tongue down and restricts the normal wave-like swallowing motion. Peristaltic action is replaced by a straight-tongued gulp, promoting a forward tongue that exposes the palate and leads to airway difficulties and mouth breathing.
To mitigate these harmful effects, it is recommended to facilitate open-cup drinking as much as opportunity allows. Additionally, there are a number of spill-proof cups available for purchase that won’t negatively impact your child’s swallowing habits. Straws are also a safe, mess-free bet!
The back of the mouth and throat in children is proportionately smaller than in adults. As the child ages, if the tissues in the tonsils and adenoids start to grow, they may potentially begin narrowing the airways and causing symptoms such as snoring, runny nose, ear infections, and sleep apnea – all potential causes for serious discomfort in a child as young as two.
It's natural for children to compensate for this airway constriction by adopting new habits such as mouth breathing. Observing the signs and starting treatment early will help minimize the impact of these habits and prevent more disruptive disorders down the line.
Allergies can cause a number of ear, nose, and throat symptoms in children, all of which can affect normal breathing. Certain food allergies cause swelling in the throat and constrict the flow of oxygen, while seasonal and nasal allergies will directly irritate the airways. Children who regularly suffer from allergies are likely to alter their normal swallowing and breathing patterns even when swelling isn't present. A wellness plan that includes treating the cause of the allergies along with countering the negative effects of the new habits can alleviate breathing problems associated with allergies.
Tongue-tie is a hereditary condition associated with an abnormally thick or rigid frenulum, the piece of soft tissue that attaches the base of the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. Having tongue-tie means the tongue's movement is restricted and its resting position is more forward than normal, creating a number of dental, structural and cognitive issues. Tongue-tie also keeps the tongue away from the palate, directly causing airway difficulties and leading to habitual mouth breathing.
Tongue-tie isn't exclusive to children, but catching it when the child is young is the best way to prevent problems in the future. Early discovery and treatment helps ensure a healthy baby grows into a healthy adult.
How Mouth Breathing Perpetuates Itself
Possibly the most pernicious effect of chronic mouth breathing is that it perpetuates itself. The more the mouth is used as the primary way to take in air, the less able the body is to breathe through the nose. The reason is twofold: mouth breathing will cause nasal tissues to become swollen and inhibit airflow, while the habit-forming center of the brain begins to make willful nose breathing less comfortable and automatic.
Treating Airway Difficulties
Accurately diagnosing a child's breathing problems is the first step in developing a strong treatment plan. The symptoms can present in a variety of ways depending on the type, severity, and physiology of the individual. Be on the lookout for your child’s lips hanging apart while watching TV, sleeping (snoring isn’t strictly necessary), and chewing food. Other signs include dry lips and lip licking, as well as a fixation with putting things in their mouth like toys, pencils, fingers or the remote control.
A thorough examination from an orofacial myofunctional therapist will help catch potential problems before they develop into serious health issues. If your child is showing symptoms of airway difficulties, contact us to set up an appointment.
October 18th, 2017
Prevention and Disease Management: Why I Focus on the Former
A gardener has a beautiful tree in the center of her back yard. One day she notices the leaves are turning brown. The gardener gets out her tools, spray bottles and tape and glue. She sticks leaves back on the tree and paints them bright green. The tree certainly looks a lot better now, but it doesn't take long for more leaves to turn brown and fall to the grass below.
The poor gardener in our story missed a key aspect of caring for living things: treating the root cause, not the symptom. If she discovered the rot behind the tree, she could have saved her prize plant. And if she provided the tree with the proper nourishment over the years it may not have developed rot in the first place.
You don't have to be a tree to take this advice to heart. As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In my practice that's more than just a saying. It's a reality myself and my patients work with every single day.
Disease Management Vs Prevention
Most of the dental industry focuses on managing diseases after they present in a patient. Problems like crooked teeth or snoring are treated by shoving things back into place, just like the gardener with the leaves. Little thought is given to why the teeth are crooked or what deeper issues could be causing the snoring.
When I work with patients, I explore the root causes of a problem and address them from the ground-up. Using this method, we may eliminate issues entirely, not just fix things up so they look nice. This key shift provides a host of long-term benefits and is quickly gaining popularity in the health community.
• Provide solutions, not temporary relief - Symptom management works to deliver fast and dramatic results, but they rarely change the cause of an issue. With preventive treatments you see gradual but solid improvements that deliver a lifetime of health and wellness.
• Work on a wide spectrum - The cause and effect of each symptom is rarely a one-toone correlation. Working to remedy a root cause often brings about an array of sidebenefits, not just the elimination of the targeted disease.
• Are low-impact - Many preventive methods are extremely easy to implement and involve gentle manipulation or exercises. Compare this to braces, retainers, and invasive surgeries.
• Are less expensive - Closely tied with the above, most preventative treatments cost less than symptom management because of their low-impact nature.
Common Causes and Preventable Conditions It's not always easy for patients to see their chronic condition as something that can be changed. Many are resigned to living a life with their ailment and simply manage the day-to-day as best they can. I've seen a wide variety of issues over the years, and more often than not they can be traced back to daily things like how we sit, how we chew, how we breathe, or even how we sleep. All of these are intricately connected; if one goes out of balance, it's likely they all will. That's how more serious problems begin to arise. Fortunately, this is easy to detect and address.
Poor sleep is an issue I frequently see in both kids and adults. Most people are aware it has something to do with constricted airways, but did you know early signs can be detected as far back as childhood? Abnormal respiratory patterns don't simply materialize overnight. They build gradually as the result of a variety of factors, including tongue position and jaw strength. If we catch some of those contributing causes early, we may reduce the odds of sleep apnea from ever developing.
Another common issue we deal with is stress. You've probably heard so much about its dangers that just seeing the word makes you stressed out! Stress does have a tremendous impact on the body, and not just your work performance or memory, either. High stress levels mean an increase in cortisol, which leads to heart disease, reduced bone strength, high blood pressure, sleep deprivation, and more. Catching stress-related markers early is an extraordinarily effective way to prevent the above issues and countless others. It is for this reason that I strongly believe that addressing dysfunctional breathing habits is absolutely vital.
Prevention is Crucial for Children
Childhood habits are some of the most powerful factors in our facial/dental development and overall health. For example, did you know excessive bottle feeding or regular thumb sucking can fundamentally alter the shape of our skull? They seem harmless enough at first, but if you're not careful they can train muscles to move incorrectly and pull the bones and joints out of alignment, leading to everything from digestion problems to snoring and speech issues.
The patterns we establish in the first months and years of life shape our wellness long into adulthood. If you build a house on an unstable foundation, you're bound to have problems later on. This is why prevention is extremely important for children, and it's one of the things I like to focus on with the families I see in my clinic.
Addressing imbalances is infinitely more powerful than treating a list of symptoms. It's safer, it's less expensive, and it’s easier to deploy with patients of all ages. I'm a firm believer that many of the common symptoms we experience today can lessened or even avoided altogether by the right treatment at the right time.
A healthy mouth is more than just a pretty smile. We use it to interact with the world, to eat our meals and talk to our friends and family. It's the gateway to a healthy body, and that's why I focus on techniques that prevent imbalances from arising. If we work together, we can keep those leaves from ever turning brown in the first place.
It's never too early to start preventive methods, nor is it ever too late! Contact me today and let's discuss you and your family's goals for a healthier, happier, and more perfect tomorrow.
June 1st, 2017
Correcting Bad Habits: How Adults Can Relearn How to Breathe
Most adults never give a second thought to how they breathe. It's seen as a fully automated process that only changes when we have to rush up a flight of stairs or speak to a large crowd. The reality is that breathing can have a profound effect on the nervous system and the physiology as a whole. Stress is tied to breathing, as are a variety of physical ailments ranging from sinus congestion to decreased muscle and bone health.
Breathing patterns are often established at a young age and can shift as we grow older due to a variety of physiological factors. Learning to recognize and correct imbalances is at the core of what Buteyko therapy aims to do. With a little education and attention, anyone can correct bad breathing habits for improved whole body wellness.
The Basics of Breathing
Ask your average person to take a deep breath and the first thing they do is puff out their chest like a balloon. This, unfortunately, isn't the healthiest way to inhale. Furthermore, habitually breathing in this manner can be a sign of physical imbalance, as it can create issues with lymphatic drainage, blood circulation, tightness in the neck and shoulders, and overall nervous system health. The explanation of why this is the case lies within the deeper mechanics of diaphragmatic breathing.
The lungs are like sponges that rest in the center cone of your rib cage. The thoracic diaphragm sits below and contracts to control the volume inside the cone, allowing air to pass in and out of the lungs without utilizing the chest or stomach muscles. Ideally, abdominal breathing establishes a regular breathing pattern that provides an adequate supply of oxygen, disperses the correct amount of carbon dioxide, and balances both the parasympathetic and sympathetic divisions of the nervous system.
The nervous system's role in breathing is twofold. First, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which is largely responsible for fight-or-flight style responses, activates the diaphragm and causes it to contract, starting the inhalation process. To exhale, the SNS deactivates and the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), mainly responsible for rest and recovery, guides the muscle back to its resting position. The relationship between the SNS and the PSNS must be kept at a careful equilibrium, otherwise imbalances will be created due to an excess or lack of carbon dioxide.
The more obvious physical factors in the respiratory process relate directly to the face, neck, nose, and tongue, all of which shape the passageways leading to the lungs and directly affect how much air is utilized during inhalation and exhalation. Breathing through the mouth negates many of the balancing benefits of respiration, reducing the production of nitric oxide (a neurotransmitter that boosts the immune system and regulates blood pressure) by as much as 50%. Poor tongue posture often contributes to mouth breathing and can be seen as another cause of improper respiration.
Chronic Hyperventilation (CHV)
The respiratory process maintains a careful pH balance in the body by regulating the amount of carbon dioxide present in the blood stream and cerebro-spinal fluid. When we're stressed, breathing increases, carbon dioxide levels drop, and the body becomes more alkaline. Problems arise when this state persists over time, creating a cascade effect where other organs must help regulate pH levels to offset the issues caused by excessive breathing.
The modern western lifestyle is filled with cases of over-breathing. Chronic stress can be a strong contributing factor, as are high sugar intake and poor posture that squashes the breathing muscle, the diaphragm. Over-breathing decreases the amount of carbon dioxide in the body and causes hyperventilation, a condition associated with an array of cardiovascular, neuromuscular, respiratory, and psychological diseases.
Incorrect Breathing Habits
Poor breathing habits can be linked to childhood or more recent events in an adult's life, including trauma or injury. Because we breathe between 5,000 and 30,000 times a day, even small imbalances can have a tremendous effect on our overall health.
Through education, attention, and proper Buteyko techniques, each of the issues below can be successfully corrected:
Benefits of Proper Breathing
Breathing is generally an unconscious and automatic act, but we have a surprising amount of control over the entire process. Consciously controlling the speed, depth, and moving mechanisms involved in respiration have a direct effect on the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which controls nearly all unconscious activities in our body. We inhale and exhale thousands of times a day, so proper breathing can be an extremely potent way to correct imbalances and promote better health.
Proper abdominal breathing, or breathing using the diaphragm, activates the vagus nerve, which triggers a relaxation response throughout the body, lowering cortisol levels and allowing the rest and repair parasympathetic nervous system to do its job. It also helps maintain the pH balance in the cerebro-spinal fluid and effortlessly regulates carbon dioxide levels in the blood stream, all cornerstones of a properly functioning physiology.
April 14th, 2018
What is the Buteyko Breathing Technique?
Of all the necessary elements for life, oxygen is the most immediate. We can survive for days without water or sleep and weeks without food. Take our breath away, though, and we shut down in a matter of minutes.
Breathing is the body's way of expelling excess carbon dioxide and bringing in fresh oxygen. Both play a vital role in our physiology's overall functioning. Keeping them in balance promotes wellness in all areas of life, and eliminating an imbalance can resolve a number of health issues that develop over time.
The Buteyko Breathing Technique is a tested method of retraining the body to breathe with maximum efficiency. It works to restore a proper balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide, which can increase feelings of wellness and alleviate symptoms from chronic conditions such as asthma, migraines, sleep apnea, and more.
History of Buteyko
The Buteyko Breathing Technique was developed in the 1950s by the physiologist K. P. Buteyko. He watched breathing patterns of sick people and noticed that despite their elevated levels of respiration, they weren't able to get enough oxygen. Intrigued, Buteyko performed studies on astronauts and ordinary people to measure their carbon dioxide output to see how it related to the physical process of respiration.
Over time Buteyko developed a series of exercises to help regulate and normalize the process of breathing. The resulting method showed promise for nearly everyone who practiced it, alleviating symptoms of asthma, balancing oxygen-CO2 levels, and producing a wealth of side benefits in a variety of patients, including the reversal of certain chronic diseases.
How Buteyko Works
The main purpose of the Buteyko technique is to normalize our unconscious breathing patterns. This is accomplished through personalized exercises built around each person's most pressing health needs. The exact exercises vary from patient to patient, but all Buteyko routines will involve things like controlled nasal breathing, slower or shorter breaths, and a focus on relaxation.
One of the key points with Buteyko is remembering the importance of breathing through our nose. This protects the airways from dry or dirty air by warming and purifying it as it enters the body. Gulping mouthfuls of air bypasses this natural filter and can affect the potency of each breath. People with poor posture, mouth-breathing habits, or asthmatic symptoms struggle to breathe properly through the nose. Buteyko can help them re-learn the proper way to breathe so it becomes an unconscious action over time.
Breath control is another central focus of the Buteyko method. Have you ever noticed how your breathing changes when you're excited, angry, or frustrated? Or when you want to calm down, your first action is to take a slow, deep breath? This is our body's natural response to stressful situations. We live in a fast-paced world, which has caused a significant upswing in the number of people who breathe too fast or too slow on a minute by minute basis. Improper breathing techniques are seen as "normal", even though they're far from optimal.
With the Buteyko technique and its controlled breathing exercises, we can encourage the body to adopt a more beneficial inhale-exhale pattern. A surprising number of symptoms can be linked to poor breathing, everything from headaches to high blood pressure, dizziness, and acid reflux. With regular Buteyko practice and instruction, all of these issues can be significantly helped.
Benefits of Buteyko
K.P. Buteyko’s research confirmed a simple fact about breathing: taking in regular quantities of air will normalize CO2 levels in the blood while improving oxygen delivery to the cells. When this balance is achieved, both the mind and body alike reap tangible benefits. Patients with increased oxygen levels in their blood have shown enhanced motor skills, faster healing times, and an overall stronger feeling of wellness.
On the other hand, imbalances have a negative impact on our ability to think clearly. For example, breathing in more air than the body requires actually deprives your blood of the C02 it needs to regulate optimal blood flow and oxygen profusion to the brain.
The Buteyko Breathing Technique can do more than just make you feel good. With regular, guided practice it has been shown to have a powerful effect on reducing asthma symptoms of coughing, wheezing and breathlessness. Chronic fatigue, migraine, and anxiety sufferers have also experienced improvements in their health as a result of customized Buteyko exercises.
Other conditions commonly reported to benefit from Buteyko practice:
Faster recovery for athletes or physically injured patients
Reduce or eliminate snoring as a result of sleep apnea
Alleviate anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms
Help with chronic fatigue or general malaise
Relief from allergy and asthma symptoms
Prevention through Buteyko Breathing
It's difficult to ignore the power our breathing habits can have on the physiology. Most people take in between 18,000 and 23,000 breaths per day, a third of which are at night, almost completely out of our conscious control. Any habit we repeat thousands of times is bound to change our physiology, especially one as important as breathing!
Buteyko brings a wide range of benefits to anyone adopting the method. Asthma suffers, especially, show promising results after sustained practice. Beyond the immediate wellness improvements is Buteyko's ability to prevent imbalances before they arise. Your breathing habits today could be stirring up the beginnings of long-term issues, leading to headaches, fatigue, or more severe symptoms down the road. Buteyko can stop them before they even start.
The benefits don't end there. Buteyko is completely drug-free, making it safer and less expensive than modern prescription medicines. Children can practice Buteyko, as can teenagers, adults, and senior citizens. The exercises are so easy to do you can practice anywhere, including at home or even in the office.
Think the Buteyko Breathing Technique could be right for you? Contact us today to set up an appointment. We'll discuss your wellness goals and work towards creating a better you!
October 22nd, 2018
Myofunctional Therapy In Children: Prevention Is The Best Cure
When beginning a new project, especially a long-term endeavor, the first steps are the most important. Imagine building a house on a shaky foundation, or starting a garden by haphazardly throwing handfuls of seeds in your lawn.
The 'well begun is half done' motto holds especially true for the development and wellness of the human physiology. Patterns established in the years leading to adolescence are often directly responsible for the shape of our face, oral cavity, and airways, all of which determine how healthy we are later in life. Failing to correct harmful habits early on can lead to everything from crooked teeth to sleep apnea and high blood pressure in adulthood.
Myofunctional therapy is especially adept at recognizing precursors to potential issues and working to correct them before symptoms arise, providing a simple yet powerful preventative solution for a lifetime of wellness.
Starting Early, Starting Right
It's surprising how many health-related issues in adulthood can be traced back to our youth. Depression, high blood pressure, chronic stress, and even sleep apnea could all have roots in seemingly innocent things like the positioning of our tongue, the shape of our face, or the quality of each breath we take.
Dealing with manifest issues can be time consuming and frustrating. A far better solution is to detect precursors and gently correct them before they cause lasting harm. This is best done by working with a myofunctional therapist as early as possible. Even common habits like thumb sucking or frequent bottle feeding could lead to developmental changes that eventually cause snoring, headaches, and hypertension.
Learning to Breathe
It isn't uncommon for children to have mild breathing problems from time to time. The causes are wide-ranging and include everything from allergies to naturally smaller air passageways. Many times these breathing issues resolve on their own. In cases where they do not, however, damaging chronic habits can take hold.
If a child can't take a breath through their nose, he or she will open their mouth instead. Doing this will change the structures activated in the face and neck and sets up a condition known as mouth breathing. This sets off a snowball effect that eventually alters the shape of the face, changes the resting position of the tongue, and pushes teeth out of alignment.
Myofunctional therapy can find the root cause of these breathing issues and help children correct their bad habits safely, naturally, and painlessly.
The tongue's role in our wellness begins practically the moment we're born. How it moves during breastfeeding directly affects the development of muscles in our face, and how it sits while at rest exerts powerful forces on the inside of the skull.
If an infant's tongue thrusts forward, for example, it can change how the oral cavity develops. By off-balancing the passive pressure against the roof of the mouth, it can lead to an elongated face, dropping the jaw and pulling the chin towards the neck. In addition to appearing unhealthy, this can also lead to crowded, crooked teeth and difficulties breathing.
Examining the mobility of a child's tongue early on can offer clues to physiological development. If the tongue is held back by a rigid lingual frenulum, for example, it can disrupt normal tongue patterns from the very beginning. Myofunctional therapy can begin to correct these issues with exercises and awareness routines tailored to each child's specific needs.
During a normal swallowing pattern, the tip of the tongue should lightly touch the forward side of the roof of the mouth. Meanwhile, the body of the tongue will affect a wave-like motion to propel food backwards towards the throat. In the case of children with tongue thrust, however, the back of the tongue goes forward, pushing against their front teeth.
Most people swallow between 600 and 800 times per day. If each of these actions exerts just a little force on the back of the teeth, can you guess what the end result will be? Crooked teeth, of course, all because of a simple, preventable habit.
Learning to swallow correctly as a child can mean the difference between healthy growth patterns and abnormal ones. Myofunctional therapy is highly effective at catching habits like these before they become ingrained, allowing children to maintain proper tongue posture while swallowing so the teeth have every opportunity to come in straight and strong.
Power of Prevention
Everything we do each day of our lives directly affects our physiology, right down to taking deep breaths or swallowing our food. The body maintains balance as best it can throughout these stresses, but there comes a point where it simply can't keep up with chronic misuse.
Bad habits like mouth breathing push the body's coping mechanisms to their limit surprisingly fast. The longer these habits persist, the worse things become. In adults this can cause all kinds of short- and long-term problems. When the patterns are set during childhood, they can lead to nearly permanent wellness issues.
Remember the old idiom about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. By monitoring and correcting small problems during the early years of life, we can prevent major issues from cropping up down the line. That thumb sucking habit may seem cute and harmless today, but when chronic snoring causes thousands of sleepless nights later in life, suddenly a simple trip to the myofunctional therapist doesn't seem like such a bad idea.
Prevention isn't as difficult as you might think. The earlier you start, the better. Give your child a head start on a healthy adulthood. Contact us and set up an appointment right away!
May 9th, 2018
What Myofunctional Therapy Isn't: Clearing Up the Top 5 Misconceptions
Myofunctional therapy has been around for over half a century. Its methods have evolved over the years, but the main focus has always been restoring THE BODYS’S NATURAL SWALLOW, TONGUE POSTURE ALONG WITH NASAL BREATHING THROUGH home exercises. Prevention and recovery by treating the patient as a whole person, not a list of symptoms.
Most people only have a passing familiarity with myofunctional therapy, despite the fact that it is used around the world. As such, there are a number of misconceptions about what it is and how myofunctional therapy works. We'll clear up a few of the more common ones below.
Myofunctional Therapy Only Focuses on the Tongue
When some people hear "myofunctional therapy", the first thing they think about is the tongue. Tongue-thrust, tongue-tie, and any number of tongue imbalances rise to the top of their awareness. While it's true that myofunctional therapy does place a lot of importance on the tongue, it's only one part of a much larger picture.
The tongue is a strong force of movement in the mouth. It's not the strongest set of muscles in the face, however. That honor goes to the masseters, a set of chewing muscles found in the back of your cheeks. If your tongue is out of place it can cause all sorts of problems, but the same can be said for any structure in the face.
Paying attention to how these muscles affect each other is the only way to get a clear picture of the root cause of symptoms. It's never just one thing at fault, it's a network of tiny imbalances that feed into each other. The tongue is often a big part of this picture, but it's not the sole focus.
Myofunctional Therapy Replaces Speech Pathology
One of the more noticeable effects of chronic mouth breathing, tongue-tie, and other orofacial structural imbalances is a reduction in one's ability to articulate speech. It's especially common in children, often displaying as a lisp where they can't quite pronounce S or TH sounds correctly.
Myofunctional therapy does deal with the physical structures that help us make sounds. It isn't a form of speech therapy, however, and shouldn't be thought of as an end-solution to lisping. If you or your child has a speech problem that's related to dental or facial imbalances, myofunctional therapy is certainly a great place to start. To fully restore correct articulation, though, it's best to consult with a speech pathologist, as well.
Myofunctional Therapy Excludes Alternative Treatments
A lot of modern medical practices have adopted an "all or nothing" philosophy towards other branches of medicine. You see one doctor; you follow one treatment plan. Stray from that narrow path and you could risk derailing your efforts or reversing your progress altogether. While this is certainly a prudent piece of advice for fields that use prescription medication and other strong one-off treatments, it absolutely does not apply to myofunctional therapy.
A lot of myofunctional therapists both consult with and refer patients to other practitioners on a regular basis. Orthodontists, speech pathologists, ENT, occupational therapists, dentists, oral surgeons; the list goes on. Remember: myofunctional therapy doesn't look solely at symptoms, it focuses on underlying causes. If your health could benefit from seeing an expert in a certain field, there are rarely any compatibility issues to worry about.
Myofunctional therapy doesn't exclude other treatment paths, and in fact, it often complements them in a number of ways. It's a highly collaborative field that has only one focus: helping patients get better.
Myofunctional Therapy is an Instant Cure
When you're in pain, or even when you feel like something "just isn't right", the only thing on your mind is a path back to wellness. Depending on how long you've been in pain, you also want to feel better now, not next week, not next month! This urgency combined with advances in the field of medicine has led to a culture of instant gratification. If it doesn't work in a few days, it's time for something else.
Not every treatment plan is a silver bullet, however. And nor should it be. Some conditions arise as a result of long-term habits and chronic misuse. Reversing them, then, is an ongoing process, one that requires both patience and persistence. If your teeth are crooked because your tongue thrusts forward when at rest, you don't get a hammer to shove them back in place.
Consistency is key when it comes to myofunctional therapy. The exercises are easy to do at home, work, or school, but doing them just a few times won't cut it. Practice your customized plan on a regular basis. Make it a part of your daily routine. Over time the improvements will become more and more obvious, and eventually you'll realize you've never felt better.
Only the Exercises Matter
In the age of digital information, it's far too easy to find quick advice on any subject that crosses our minds. This usually leads to sloppy self-diagnoses, including patients who are seeking myofunctional solutions. Just looking up a list of breathing exercises doesn't address the problem at hand, however.
A vital part of seeing a myofunctional therapist is taking advantage of their attention and their experience. Imbalances cause a wide variety of symptoms, it's rarely a one-to-one relationship. Just because you have a headache doesn't mean your jaw is misaligned.
Once your physiology's condition has been assessed, you'll receive a personalized plan that can include exercises, breathing practices, and more. It's not just a top-ten list of silver bullets from the internet, it's a fully customized, progressive path to wellness designed specifically to meet your needs.
Think myofunctional therapy might be right for you? Don't let the misconceptions keep you away! Contact us to set up an appointment and start your journey to improved wellness.
April 17th, 2017
Long Term Effects of Untreated Tongue-Ties
Being tongue-tied is more than just a figure of speech. The condition is characterized by an unusually short or tight lingual frenulum, the small bridge of tissue that connects the front of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. In most people the frenulum is flexible enough to allow for normal tongue articulation. In the case of tongue-tie, however, the frenulum restricts proper mobility and more importantly palatal rest, leading to a wide variety of issues that grow in severity over time if left untreated. One of the most often overlooked conditions is a posterior restriction, which can cause swallowing problems and speech difficulties among other issues.
Many people associate tongue-tie with breastfeeding infants and children learning how to speak. While it's true that ankyloglossia is a hereditary condition, the problems associated with tongue-tie last long into adulthood. Untreated tongue-tie can lead to an array of breathing, dental, digestive, and facial development imbalances as well as a lifetime of difficulty eating and sleeping. Fortunately, myofunctional therapy is an effective method to help restore proper tongue mobility and alleviate symptoms associated with tongue-tie once the restriction is eliminated.
Importance of the Tongue
How can one small muscular organ shape so many aspects of our health? The tongue's role in facial development is one of movement and resting pressure. Just like rocks are shifted and shaped by the gentle but ongoing splashing of water, the bones in our face are constantly nudged by the movements we make. The tongue is one of the more powerful and mobile elements of our face, giving it the ability to influence our teeth, digestion, breathing, jaw movements, and even the position of our neck and shoulders.
In the case of tongue-tie, the tongue's natural motion is inhibited, causing everything from colic to speech impairment. As a child ages new habits are adopted to compensate for the limited mobility. If left uncorrected, this seemingly mild condition can lead to crooked teeth, sleep apnea, and a host of other issues that last long into adulthood. More importantly, as the issue progresses the primary site of breathing switches from the nose to the mouth. Predominant mouth breathing has a direct negative impact on the body’s ability to transport oxygen, regulate pH, control dilation of blood vessels and a host of other issues.
Tongue-Tie and Facial Development
Oral posture, especially the positioning and movement patterns of the tongue, serve as guides to help the face develop properly. If tongue-tie is present and left untreated, this growth can create altered structures and habits that lead to a lifetime of health problems. Below are some of the most common issues associated with untreated tongue-tie.
External appearance - Apart from health and wellness concerns, tongue-tie can cause visual abnormalities such as flattened cheekbones and a retruded jaw. These subtle deformities can cause the sclera (the whites of the eyeballs) to show more prominently than is normal.
Snoring, Sleep Apnea, and Tongue-Tie
Interrupted breathing during sleep is one of the more noticeable symptoms of tongue-tie in adults. Forms of obstructive apnea are caused by the tongue blocking the airway at night, forcing the body to make movements to clear the passageway, which may lead to wakeful nights, bedwetting and grinding of teeth. A child sleeping with an open mouth may appear relatively innocuous, however in truth their brains are being deprived of about 18% of oxygen required for normal growth and development.
Most of the body is relaxed while we sleep, especially during REM cycles. The tongue moves passively forward out of the upper airway. Tongue-tie can directly prevent this motion. To compensate, adults and children alike may grind their teeth to tense the muscles in the upper airway in order to increase airflow for breathing.
Chronic sleep deprivation can alter the balance of your autonomic nervous system, wreaking havoc on your hormones, raising your cortisol levels (aka the “stress hormone”) while impeding your thyroid’s ability to stimulate hormones to regulate your metabolism. Additionally, your insular cortex and cerebellum are the first parts of the brain to suffer from asphyxiation, leading to continuous fogginess and reduced alertness. This cognitive impairment is often misdiagnosed as ADD/ADHD, since the symptoms are quite similar.
Orofacial myofunctional therapy can be remarkably effective at addressing the muscles involved with the airway as it relates snoring, apnea, and other sleep related problems. Many of these symptoms are a direct result of a restricted tongue not allowing for proper palatial tongue rest positioning and nasal breathing.
Diagnosing and Treating Tongue-Tie
Early and accurate evaluation and treatment of tongue-tie by a medical professional who is trained to recognize all forms of tongue tie is crucial and extremely effective at preventing major issues before they arise. Unfortunately, many symptoms related to tongue-tie are often attributed to other issues or ignored altogether, even in adults. To properly evaluate the presence or severity of a tongue-tie, a physical exam by an experienced Orofacial Myofunctional Therapist is necessary.
Tongue posture and mobility are central pillars of overall health and wellness. Tongue-ties cripple this from birth and serve as a nearly invisible cause of pain and discomfort. Myofunctional therapy has proven remarkably effective at preventing and eliminating the symptoms of tongue-tie, regardless of age or severity.
A proper diagnosis of the severity of tongue-tie is vital for long term health and wellness. It's a treatable condition that's best caught early to avoid years of pain and discomfort. If you think you or a family member may suffer from tongue-tie, contact us to set up an appointment.
March 12, 2017
5 Consequences of Poor Tongue Posture
The tongue is an integral part of our facial anatomy and physiology. The muscular organ helps chew food, allows us to taste, plays a crucial role in speech, and can shape a surprising number of visible features in our face and jaw. And because of its location, the tongue also plays a crucial role in digestion as well as overall oral health.
Despite its importance, most of us only think about our tongue when it's in motion or in pain. However, this collection of muscles is always present, quietly influencing our health while sitting at rest. Habitual movement patterns and poor tongue posture can lead to imbalances as simple as a stomach ache, as frustrating as sleep apnea, or as noticeable as crooked teeth and open-mouth posture.
Fortunately, most of these issues can be successfully treated with orofacial myofunctional therapy. Here's a look at some of the more common consequences of poor tongue posture in children and adults.
1. Speech Errors and Lisping
The tongue is one of the key effectors of speech. By articulating in a variety of ways, it changes the flow of air passing through the lips, forming the sounds we use in everyday conversation. Try saying "twenty teeth" without moving your tongue and you'll see just how crucial it is for speaking.
Poor tongue posture and mobility can directly affect speech patterns. One of the more common conditions is developing a lisp. Affected individuals tend to slur their sibilants, pronouncing the "s" in "sun" as a "th" sound: "thun." This is especially common in children who use pacifiers, suck their thumbs, or are tongue-tied. Although, adults often fall victim to the same condition when the tongue posture and function is abnormal.
Myofunctional therapy is used to train the tongue to use proper position while in motion to correct lisps and related conditions.
2. Sleep Apnea and Snoring
Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by shallow or interrupted breathing patterns during sleep. Closely related is snoring, a noise made when the body has to force constricted airways open, which is often noted as an early sign of sleep apnea. Both issues can affect the quality of sleep for both ourselves and our partners, and both can have roots in poor tongue posture.
A tongue that does not rest on the palate can slide back during sleep and create an obstruction to air flow. Poor tongue posture in children, in particular, causes them to sleep with their mouths open, putting them at greater risk for snoring and decreased O2 to the brain. No matter our age, we are all susceptible to the ill effects of sleep deprivation, which can include daytime tiredness, foggy head, chronic fatigue, poor concentration and the manifestation or exacerbation of ADD/ADHD symptoms.
Myofunctional exercises are used to strengthen the tongue and restore proper posture, alleviating or even eliminating sleep apnea and snoring over time. Eliminating these nighttime airway constrictions will allow our bodies to undergo critical restorative sleep without interruption.
3. Poor Oral and Digestive Health
An often overlooked function of the tongue is maintaining proper saliva flow in the mouth. We swallow between 500 and 1000 times per day, an action that requires a number of muscles and nerves in the face to work in concert. Abnormal tongue function inhibits this self-cleaning component, contributing to oral health issues or even digestive disturbances such as gas, acid reflux, and upset stomach.
The tongue normally presses against the roof of the mouth when we swallow. In a common case of poor posture, the tongue will push against the front teeth or even protrude between the incisors when swallowing, a condition often called tongue thrust. This imbalance can push the teeth outward, create speech problems, contribute to jaw clenching/grinding habits, cause overbite or underbite, and increase the occurrence of tooth decay and gum disease.
Maintaining correct tongue positioning is crucial to our overall oral health as well as our digestive health (after all, digestion begins in the mouth). Inadequate mastication may prevent our enzymes from properly breaking down the food we eat. Common maladies such as sore throat, chronic headaches, and bad breath can also be traced back to poor tongue posture. Myofunctional therapy restores balance by working with the root cause of these issues and providing treatment at the source.
4. Crooked Teeth
We think of our teeth as immovable and indestructible, but poor tongue posture is a prime suspect whenever misalignments start to show. Teeth are moved by light, constant pressure exerted over a long period of time. When the tongue rests out of its neutral position, it can exert up to 500 grams per centimeter of continuous pressure on the back of your teeth (for reference, it only takes 1.5 grams per centimeter of pressure to move your front teeth). If left untreated, incorrect tongue posture yields poorly developed jaws. The end result resembles the effect of having too many teeth and not enough room for them in the mouth.
Correcting misaligned or crowded teeth often requires braces, though treating the symptom without the cause may only yield a temporary fix. Orofacial myofunctional therapy can correct these imbalances to ensure the tongue maintains good posture and the teeth remain in their natural position. Furthermore, addressing problems with tongue posture as early in a child’s life as age 4 may alleviate the need for braces altogether.
5. Facial Imbalances
Our tongues may seem like an invisible part of our physiology, but they play an active role in shaping the visible positions of our face, neck, and jaw. A quiet tug of war takes place between the tongue and the muscles of the face. If an imbalance develops, this can directly affect our jaw, neck, and cheeks, creating a dull or sluggish appearance, an open mouth, or other less desirable face shapes. These in turn can lead to many of the health issues listed above.
If the tongue habitually reaches forward and down, for example, this can drop the chin and extend the jaw, a condition that's not only visible to others but can also lead to clicking jaw joints (TMJ), neck pain, and wrinkles around the mouth. A tongue that rests high against the back of the teeth can create a weak chin, open bite, gaping lips, or buck teeth. Myofunctional therapy is extremely effective at correcting these imbalances.
The Road to Recovery
Poor tongue posture can be linked to a number of health problems, both cosmetic and physiological. Orofacial Myofunctional therapy is a simple but effective way to prevent, ease or eliminate these issues altogether.
Take a look at our OMD checklist to see if your symptoms might be associated with poor tongue posture, then contact us to start your journey to better health.
February 21st, 2018
Is Myofunctional Therapy Right For Me?
You use the muscles in your face and mouth all throughout the day. You're constantly breathing, too, both while sleeping and awake. Most importantly, your tongue exerts pressure on your jaw and teeth when it's just sitting motionless in your mouth. We don't pay a lot of attention to these things in our daily life, but they can be the source of our pains as well as the keys to better health.
In the same way the slow lapping of water can smooth a stone over time, the dental and facial structures of our body shape overall wellness. Myofunctional therapy focuses on these structures in an effort to catch imbalances before they take hold. It's safe, simple, and effective, and it can bring about some amazing health benefits for children and adults alike.
What Is Myofunctional Therapy?
Myofunctional therapy works with a range of disorders that arise from behavioral patterns created by inappropriate breathing and muscle functioning. It helps with a huge variety of chronic and acute problems experienced by both adults and children. These issues are collectively known as orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs), and they're much more common than you might think. Below are just a few of the habits and symptoms commonly associated with myofunctional disorders:
Whatever the cause may be, orofacial myofunctional disorders have a tremendous impact on your health. Something as innocent as incorrect tongue posture can cause crooked teeth or even change your swallowing pattern, leading to digestive issues such as heartburn. By monitoring and correcting these imbalances as early as possible, we can address the current issues and may also prevent future problems before they arise.
How Does Myofunctional Therapy Work?
Most people think about their health in terms of what's currently bothering them. You might feel fine, but there's pain when you chew, or you're having trouble clearing your head and paying attention at work. These symptoms quickly become the focus of our wellness efforts. We do everything we can to stop the pain, never thinking about what's causing it in the first place.
The core of myofunctional therapy focuses on finding the root of an issue and restoring underlying balance. Symptoms point us in the right direction, but we look beyond to discover the potential origin of a problem. By addressing the possible cause instead of the effect, we may eliminate symptoms slowly but surely and bring about real, long-lasting wellness.
Myofunctional therapy works by re-educating the brain and muscles. You may have picked up a bad movement pattern when you were young, for example, which eventually caused your sleep apnea as an adult. By providing a routine of gentle, restorative exercises and mindfulness practices, we can rewire your orofacial systems to perform as intended, re-opening the airways and keeping the muscles moving properly. Myofunctional therapy utilizes everything from breathing work to functional posturing recommendations.
The best part about myofunctional therapy is that it's completely free from side-effects. You don't have to worry about expensive medicine or invasive surgeries, either. Instead, you get safe and effective treatments that benefit your entire physiology, often bringing relief to ailments you didn't even think were related!
Who Is Myofunctional Therapy for?
In short, just about everyone, including young children, teenagers, and adults. Anyone who suffers from an ailment related to facial breathing or dental imbalances can benefit from these treatments. Most report improvement in other areas of their lives, too, all thanks to a strong focus on causes instead of symptoms.
Myofunctional therapy is especially powerful for children. Their physiologies are still under development, setting patterns in place they'll keep for the rest of their life. If a habit or routine is creating an imbalance, it could cause serious problems later in adulthood. Myofunctional therapy can catch these issues before they begin, making it an incredibly powerful tool for prevention.
How can you spot a possible OMD? Self-diagnosis isn't always reliable (nor indeed advisable), but there are some contributing factors that are easier to spot. If your child frequently uses bottles instead of breastfeeding, is constantly sucking on a pacifier, or uses sippy cups frequently, he or she is likely developing an imbalanced facial muscle habit. Thumb sucking and other non-nutritive sucking are also strong indicators to watch for. In adults, conditions like mouth breathing, tongue-tie or tongue thrust, clenching, grinding, chronic snoring, and any kind of bite alignment or jaw abnormality all fall under the umbrella of myofunctional treatments.
Benefits of Myofunctional Therapy
Once you start your journey to wellness through myofunctional therapy, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how effective it is. The specific benefits will vary from person to person, but here are a just a few you can look forward to:
Better sleep - Cut out snoring and finally get your beauty rest.
Improved stress response - Proper breathing patterns can help regulate cortisol, allowing you to better cope with the strains of daily life.
Feel better - Clear your head, regain focus, and get rid of that daily malaise.
Healthier appearance - Reshape your facial structure for a more balanced, healthier look.
Save money - Myofunctional therapy is less expensive, more effective, and far safer than surgery or medication.
Fewer trips to the orthodontist – Time spent in braces can be significantly lessened, while decreasing your chance of relapse. You may even avoid braces altogether!
Is Myofunctional Therapy Right for Me?
The vast majority of adults experience at least a few symptoms of an OMD on a regular basis. Sometimes these are minor and easy to ignore, like small pains in the neck and shoulders or a minor misalignment of the jaw. Other times they're more severe, difficult to ignore, and even painful to live with. If you experience any kind of chronic pain, it could have a strong link to an imbalance we can correct.
No matter your current state, myofunctional therapy can help get you back on the path to wellness. If you think you or your child might be developing an unhealthy movement pattern, we can help. Myofunctional therapy is a strong preventive practice, too, so the sooner treatment begins, the faster you can feel healthy again.
If you have any questions about Myofunctional Therapy, we're here to help! Contact us today to schedule a consultation.
August 21st, 2017
Bottle Feeding: Tempting for Mothers, Dangerous for Babies
The routines we establish for our children affect their growth and development throughout life. Feeding methods during the first few months are especially crucial, as infants are rapidly growing and learning how to interact with the world. There are a variety of reasons parents may choose to bottle feed, and some even use it exclusively in place of breastfeeding. However, it's important to understand the long-term health issues that can result from regular bottle feeding as a replacement for breastfeeding.
What's Wrong with Bottle Feeding?
A healthy swallowing pattern (suck-swallow-breathe) during breastfeeding involves a wave-like motion in the mouth. The tongue shifts liquid back with a gentle peristaltic action, beginning with the tip of the tongue and moving to the back of the throat. Infants can naturally adopt this action while breastfeeding in a semi-upright position, which sets a pattern for proper muscle and facial development as they grow up.
Frequent bottle feeding, on the other hand, strengthens a different set of muscles in a baby's face. What’s more, it encourages passive feeding, which weakens other muscles and promotes improper (low in the mouth) tongue position. The gentle wave motion is replaced with inactive feeding, which is alternated by a rough jerking action akin to a sliding mechanical piston. The tongue also holds a static, low-and-forward position and remains largely still during the feeding process, training it to hold this position even outside of feeding.
The Importance of Establishing Good Habits for Healthy Development
Repeated and persistent actions build habits, and these habits change our physiology. In developing infants these changes are even more evident and long-lasting. Misalignments of the teeth in the upper and lower jaw are a common result of frequent bottle feeding, as is tongue tie. Both of these are often cited as causative factors for mouth breathing, which itself carries a wide variety of health problems in infants, growing children, and even adults.
Mouth Breathing as Caused by Regular Bottle Feeding
Close your mouth and take note of where your tongue falls to rest. The entire tongue should lay across the roof of the mouth, with the tip laying right behind the front teeth. Now try opening your mouth slightly. One of the first things that happens is your tongue drops from the roof of your mouth and rests in the lower jaw.
With babies who bottle feed, this pattern if often disrupted. A growing infant's tongue needs to follow this arrangement to encourage strong upper jaw development, which facilitates the beginning of proper airway development. If the tongue is too far forward or too weak, a cascade of misalignments can occur, most of which lead to mouth breathing.
What is Mouth Breathing?
The condition known as mouth breathing is exactly what it sounds like: habitually breathing through an open mouth instead of the nostrils. However, even habitually holding the lips slightly parted may be a cause for concern for parents. Issues such as swollen tonsils or allergies often lead to temporary mouth breathing, but in cases of a long-term habit, deeper issues are usually at fault.
Regular bottle feeding is one of the strongest contributing factors to mouth breathing. The forward position of the tongue, the passive feeding alternated with strong sucking action–it all develops different sets of facial muscles and discourages the usual ones to the point of atrophy.
Some of the long-term issues associated with mouth breathing include the following:
Bottle Feeding and Malocclusions
A malocclusion is a misalignment of the upper and lower dental arches as the jaw closes, causing the teeth to sit off-kilter when biting, chewing, or at rest. Overjet, underbite, open bite, and related imbalances all fall under this umbrella. While there are many potential causes and degrees of severity for each of these conditions, research suggests a strong link between regular bottle feeding in children and the development of malocclusions.
Bottle feeding instead of breastfeeding during the first six months of an infant's life can be especially detrimental. These children are nearly three times as likely to develop posterior crossbite and 25% more likely to develop overbite (Boronat-Catalá et al 2016). If bottle feeding continues for 12 months, some of those odds can more than triple.
Breastfeeding Encourages Correct Development
The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first six months of an infant's life. This ensures proper patterns will establish in the child's brain, making them easier to maintain in later stages of growth. It also allows for proper craniofacial development through proper muscle stimulation, breathing patterns, and tongue position during sucking.
Breastfeeding also needs to be carried out with correct posture. Laying the infant down during feeding can block the nasal passage and encourages a backwards tongue position. The child must also stop feeding in order to take a breath, at which point he or she will usually breathe through the mouth. The better position is to seat the child upright on the mother's lap, allowing the nostrils access to air and the tongue to engage in its natural wave-like drinking action.
Babies who breastfeed for the first year of their life and are then bottle fed for three months have fewer health and developmental difficulties than children who are exclusively bottle fed. Establishing the pattern early can have a profound effect on the child's health throughout life. Even if malocclusion symptoms do occur, myofunctional therapy can reverse the habits and train the muscles and tongue to behave properly.
When mothers have difficulty with breastfeeding, an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) can identify the source of the trouble and help to alleviate them. Problems with breastfeeding are often a mom’s first warning sign that an assessment for corrective treatment may be necessary.
The earlier you begin with myofunctional therapy, the better off your child will be. Contact us for more information or to set up an appointment.
January 21st, 2018
How Poor Breathing Can Affect the Entire Body
Breathing is something we try not to think about; it happens in the background while we're reading, driving, or taking a walk. When we exercise we're suddenly aware our lungs have limitations, but it's not something we dwell on for long. Automatic and invisible, that's the way breathing should be. But if your breathing habits aren't meeting your body's needs, you could be building towards serious wellness issues down the line.
Most people inhale about once every four seconds. That adds up to an average of 20,000 breaths over the course of a day, or better than half a million in a month's time. Anything you do millions of times a year is bound to have a dramatic impact on your life, especially when it is as vital as breathing. If you catch poor breathing habits early, you can correct imbalances before they arise, preventing everything from high blood pressure to sleeplessness and depression.
Basics of Breathing
Think of your ribs like a cone-shaped travel mug, the kind with a lock-on lid you might keep in your car. Floating in the center are your lungs, a flexible organ responsible for holding and processing each breath. The lungs don't move on their own, they're pushed from below by the thoracic diaphragm (that thin sheet of muscle that spasms when you hiccup). In the travel mug example, the diaphragm would sit at the bottom and contract to lower the liquid level, analogous to filling the lungs. When the diaphragm relaxes, air is pushed out through an elastic recoil process, then the cycle starts all over again.
The lungs and diaphragm are the cup portion of your travel mug, but the more intricate part is the lid, which includes your nose, mouth, teeth, jaw, and related structures in the face, especially the tongue. These parts of your anatomy control how air enters and exits the body and directly affect the quality and quantity of each breath. (Imagine trying to sip your coffee through a lid with tiny, side-facing holes. It just wouldn't work!) These parts are more likely to function incorrectly, which is why we put so much emphasis on them during breath work.
The biochemical components of proper respiration shouldn't be ignored, either. Breathing isn't just about "getting enough oxygen". The process is more closely linked to carbon dioxide and our body's need to move it out of our system. The air we breathe actually contains four times as much oxygen as necessary. Taking forced, fast, or deep breaths won't fix respiratory or absorption issues. It's all about balance, and that requires looking at more than just the lungs.
Nearly a third of daily breathing takes place during sleep, outside of our conscious control. Ensuring the entire system works properly on its own, from nose to tongue to lung, is the key to correct breathing. If something is weak or out of place it creates a cascade effect, forcing other mechanisms to compensate, pulling other parts out of place, and so on. Before you know it, you're six million poor breaths into a real problem!
Breathing and the Physiology
The mechanical components of the respiratory system do the physical work of moving air in and out of the lungs. The biochemical components then determine what happens to the oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout our body. Both processes need to be monitored and adjusted to establish optimal breathing patterns. Both are also guided by the nervous system, forming an intimate relationship that affects the entire physiology.
Our autonomic nervous system is divided into two functionally distinct parts: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), responsible for fight-or-flight responses, and the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), which is for rest and recovery. The interplay between the SNS and PSNS allows muscles to activate and relax, among other things, and it plays a key role in the respiratory process. Consciously change the rhythm of those actions and your nervous system has to compensate to maintain homeostasis.
The breathing-nervous system connection extends to the body's pH balance as well as things like cortisol levels. Hyperventilation, for example, decreases the amount of carbon dioxide in the body, leading to dizziness, headache, heightened blood pressure, reduced neural activity, and muscle twitches. Experiencing symptoms like these over brief periods of time is rarely a cause for alarm, but chronic, recurring conditions are a sign of a deeper imbalance, one that can often be traced back to poor breathing habits.
Symptoms Associated with Poor Breathing
The ideal respiratory pattern delivers an adequate supply of oxygen to the physiology, disperses the correct amount of carbon dioxide, and does both without causing strain on any part of the body. The mechanical components of proper breathing include a closed mouth, tongue resting in its correct position, and jaw muscles relaxed but not slack. Your chest also doesn't expand when you inhale, just your belly.
If any of the above factors are out of place, small imbalances are likely to occur. Small imbalances lead to larger imbalances, such as mouth breathing altering the shape of the face, which affects the amount of air we take in. Some of the symptoms associated with long-term poor breathing habits include:
Because breathing involves so many moving parts and is intimately tied to all the bodies systems, every imbalance can lead to something more serious. The connection isn't always obvious, either, especially when chronic issues arise after years of improper breathing.
End Poor Breathing Now
Each day you add another 17,000 to 23,000 breaths to your body's respiratory mileage. That's 17,000 to 23,000 chances you have to fix current issues and prevent new ones from arising. If you're interested in learning more about the importance of proper breathing, we're here to help. Don't waste another breath, contact us and set up an appointment!
Practice Makes Permanent.
July 21st, 2017
Pacifiers and Thumbs: Why Non-Nutritive Sucking is Harmful for Infants and Toddlers
Children go through a number of dramatic growth phases during the first years of their life. In fact, newborns can double their length and triple their weight in just their first 12 months! These early developmental stages set bone structures in place and allow movement patterns to establish, laying the groundwork for a child's physiology in early adult years and beyond. Habits formed as a child can drastically alter these growth patterns, making it crucial to establish beneficial patterns while minimizing potentially harmful ones as early as possible.
One of the more common habits toddlers engage in is non-nutritive sucking. This includes anything the child might do that involves the lips, tongue, and lower jaw that mimics a sucking motion without gaining nourishment. Using a pacifier, sucking on a thumb, and drinking exclusively from a sippy cup fall into the category of non-nutritive sucking. All of these reinforce incorrect tongue posture and swallowing habits in the child that can lead to more profound health issues later in life.
How Non-Nutritive Sucking Can Change a Child's Physiology
Any prolonged, repeated activity can change our functioning physiology. The impact these activities have on our health largely depends upon their frequency, DURATION and intensity, along with any hereditary tendencies. Repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow are prime examples of this in adults. Children are far more vulnerable to the long-term effects of these habits due to their rapidly growing bodies. One small habit changes the way a muscle develops and moves, for example, which in turn alters how a bone moves, how it is shaped or sits at rest. That leads to negative health effects as long-lasting as poor posture, crooked teeth, or breathing difficulties, all because of a small, easily correctible activity adopted in childhood.
Misalignments between the teeth in the upper and lower jaw, generally referred to as malocclusions, are commonly associated with extended non-nutritive sucking in children. Overbites, underbites, and other jaw alignment issues can be a direct result of the practiced muscular movements a child engages in when sucking on a pacifier or thumb. Malocclusions often lead to crowded teeth, difficulty chewing, altered or imbalanced facial development, and more severe digestive issues later in life.
Anterior open bite, a more common result of tongue thrust, is also associated with non-nutritive sucking. This condition is characterized by a tongue that sits forward in the mouth, often with the lips resting in an open position and the tongue protruding between the teeth. Health issues associated with tongue thrust include mouth breathing, poor dental health, and frequent ear infections. In adults these imbalances can manifest as chronic snoring, speech impediments, facial imbalances such as a weak chin, and sleep apnea.
Sippy Cups Can Be Harmful
Sippy cups seem like a convenient solution to cut down on spills and ease children into using standard cups and glasses. Unfortunately, the position the mouth and tongue adopt when drinking from a sippy cup is highly unnatural. Relying on sippy cups for too long trains muscles in the face, jaw, and tongue to move in irregular and extreme ways, creating symptoms similar to non-nutritive sucking habits in a shorter amount of time.
A sippy cup's mouthpiece holds the front of the tongue down and restricts its motion. Instead of a smooth wave-like peristaltic action while drinking, the child holds his or her tongue stiff and forcefully gulps liquid down the throat. Repeating this strong, forward motion hundreds of times a day for months on end can dramatically alter the position of the tongue, resulting in a low-postured resting tongue position and improper swallowing function. Furthermore, when the tongue lies low in the mouth rather than resting against the roof, airway difficulties may arise and lead to more serious problems down the line.
Long-Term Effects of Non-Nutritive Sucking
While the impact of non-nutritive thumb sucking may seem minimal in infants and toddlers, the developmental issues they lead to can turn into life-long struggles. In fact, a newborn’s palate is as soft and malleable as the head of a drum, and the constant pressure from thumb sucking may cause a higher and more narrow palate to form, leading to abnormal swallowing patterns and even speech problems. As the child grows older these small imbalances can cause malocclusion, and can affect the outward facial shape a longer, flatter shape.
Other long term effects of prolonged non-nutritive sucking include:
Cavities and tooth decay from improper saliva production and drainage.
Clicking jaw joints (TMJ) caused by irregular muscle movements.
Frequent upset stomach or acid reflux.
Wrinkles around the mouth.
Prevention and Treatment of Non-Nutritive Sucking
One of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent these harmful habits from forming is through breastfeeding. When a child feeds naturally, it maintains obligate nasal breathing with the tongue resting on the palate, allowing him or her to form healthier swallowing habits. In fact, there's a strong correlation between breastfeeding and children avoiding non-nutritive sucking patterns later in life. While breastfeeding is in almost all cases healthier for your child, occasional usage of pacifiers, sippy cups or bottles should not pose a threat.
Contrary to popular belief, breaking chronic thumb sucking or pacifier habits does not cause emotional trauma to children. Simple behavioral modifications such as positive reinforcement have shown remarkable results with even the most stubborn routines. No matter the length or severity of a child's habit, the earlier it's caught the better the outcome.
Non-nutritive sucking is a modifiable environmental factor. With training from a myofunctional therapist, parents can easily spot and correct these issues to help their children work towards a better, healthier physiology as they grow older.
Proper diagnosis and early treatment is an incredibly powerful tool. If you want to learn more about spotting and correcting these issues as early as possible, contact us to set up an appointment.
October 1st, 2017
The Connection Between Sleep Apnea and Airway Difficulties
Sleep apnea affects 2% of children and as many as 6% of all adults. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is caused by complete or partial obstructions of the upper airway. The condition leads to frequent pauses in breathing during sleep as well as loud snoring, snorting, and even choking sounds, all of which are disruptive to the OSA sufferer and those around them.
Many adults who experience OSA can trace the problem back to developmental issues during childhood. Only 35% of our facial growth is complete at birth. The next 35% happens over the next seven years, with the final 30% completing by age 12. It's extremely important to establish healthy patterns during this time. Each habit can have a tremendous effect on muscle and bone growth during the formative years, leading to semi-permanent changes that cause sleep apnea, snoring, and breathing difficulties well into adulthood.
Oral Rest Posture and Airway Difficulties
We rarely think of our facial muscles as playing a role in breathing. Rarer still is considering how our mouth and lower jaw sit when not speaking or chewing. Oral rest posture (ORP) is a strong connective factor between breathing difficulties and snoring/sleep apnea in both children and adults. Muscle weakness and tongue posture can change the way our face develops, leading to malocclusion. Any structural shift will alter the way we use those same structures.
A healthy ORP manifests in the overall facial appearance. Our lips should be lightly touching, not open or too loose as to encourage mouth breathing. The tip of the tongue should also rest on the incisive papilla, the bit of flesh just behind the top teeth, with the rest of the tongue lying across the entire roof of the mouth. When these conditions are met we naturally want to breathe through our nose in smooth, even motions.
Most people take between 17,000 and 23,000 breaths per day, roughly a third of which happen at night. During those hours our jaw sits at its natural oral rest posture without conscious changes to its position. If the ORP is off, or if muscles in the jaw are weak or misaligned, airway obstructions can easily occur. A natural equilibrium must be encouraged throughout life, allowing an equilibrium of pressure to keep the mouth and jaw in the proper position, even while we sleep.
Impact of Breathing Difficulties in Children and Adults
Any degree of obstructive sleep apnea can have a negative effect on a person's life. It starts with fatigue and a general sense of malaise during the day, progressing to short attention spans, increased aggression, anxiety, and so on. The consequences add up over time, as well. Recent studies are showing a link between interrupted sleep and diseases such as high blood pressure, Alzheimer's, and dementia.
Health issues in children related to airway difficulties are often not as serious as in adults, but they're clear signs that the child could have more severe problems as they grow older. Kids exhibit the same symptoms of fatigue, irritability, anxiety, and short attention spans as adults. They're also more likely to have recurrent tonsillitis, a persistent cough, crooked teeth, and and overactive gag reflex. Bad oral resting posture can also create tongue thrust conditions and mouth breathing, both of which exacerbate the above symptoms and can lead to other issues, as well.
Early Habits Form Long-Lasting Changes
We all know that persistent, gentle pressure on our teeth can cause them to shift out of position over time. The same holds true for the muscles and bones throughout our face. The tongue resting against a different part of the palate, for example, moves pressure to a different part of the face. The body responds by strengthening certain muscles to provide a counter-balance. Those muscles in turn pull on other muscles and the cascade effect continues. There are only 22 bones and 43 muscles in the face. If any of them are out of balance or out of place, the others will suffer, as will their physical functions like chewing and breathing.
There are a great number of habits we pick up in our childhood that can affect how our face develops over time. Some of the more common contributing factors include:
In addition to the habitual factors, there are also hereditary and structural considerations that can play a key role in sleep apnea. These include obesity, neck circumference, jaw size, and the height of the palatal vault. No matter the cause or current state of the condition, however, there are treatments that can help correct the issues to restore proper airway functionality.
Relieving the Pressure
Even though we're not aware of it, there are constant push and pull forces going on in our physiology. The jaw and face grow as a result of balanced pressure from the lips, cheeks, and tongue. A disruption in this equilibrium can result in facial and skeletal changes that alter the physical structures of a person's appearance. Sleep apnea is a direct result of airway difficulties caused by these shifts.
Diagnosing and treating the cause of airway difficulties in children can prevent a lifetime of suffering. Adults, too, can benefit from education and training in correct orofacial muscle movements, tongue positioning, and corrective posturing. No matter your current state, the sooner you begin the better off you'll be. Contact us for more information or to set up an appointment.
August 29th, 2018
Orthodontics vs Myofunctional Therapy (or, Why Your Teeth Continue to Shift after Braces)
It's easy to forget that our teeth are not alone. The pearly whites we brush and floss every day receive most of the attention, but the structures they come in contact with are just as important for maintaining oral health. The lips, cheeks, tongue, and jaw do most of the moving, while all fully grown teeth can do is sit passively by.
Spotting crooked teeth means something has been pushing them out of place for months. The most common solution is to get braces and gradually set them back into place. Roughly 4 million people in the U.S. are currently wearing braces, and an estimated 70% of Americans would benefit from some form of dental realignment.
How many people currently wearing braces stop to wonder why their teeth are crooked in the first place? And how many of them will go back to having crooked teeth after getting their braces removed?
If teeth are out of alignment, something probably pushed them out of place. Braces can do wonderful things to improve our dental health, but they can't address every underlying cause of crooked teeth.
The Real Cause of Crooked Teeth
There are several potential causes of crooked teeth, some of which feel completely out of our control. Genetics, for example, may give the jaw a narrow arch, causing the teeth to crowd each other out. Injury can also push teeth out of alignment.
For many people, though, bad habits are the chief cause of crooked teeth. We rarely think of our tongue position or breathing patterns as prime dental movers, but the reality is they can be the root cause of crooked teeth in both children and adults.
Kids are especially vulnerable to crooked teeth. Habits such as thumb sucking, pacifier use, bottle feeding in place of breast feeding, and reliance upon sippy cups all cause a shift in how the tongue is positioned in the mouth, how the lips move, and how the muscles in the face operate. These incorrect movements have a cumulative affect over time, turning simple habits into set-in-bone changes to the physiology.
Most parents are content to let crooked baby teeth run their course. If the causal conditions are still present when permanent teeth come in, however, it's likely they'll be crooked as well.
The causes of crooked teeth lead to similar symptoms that can often be mediated by wearing braces. When the teeth are back in alignment and the braces are removed, those habits simply must be addressed. If they're not, it won't be long before the teeth return to being crooked once again.
Role of Orthodontics
If your teeth shift out of alignment after wearing braces, does that mean your trips to the orthodontist were a waste of time?
Not at all! Braces have a measurable effect on dental health. Reducing tooth crowding and restoring teeth to their proper alignment makes them easier to clean, preventing gum disease, plaque build-up, and countless other conditions. Having straight teeth also does wonderful things for our self-esteem, which is an important part of our mental and physical well-being.
The main issue with traditional orthodontics is it often fails to examine the cause of crooked teeth. Braces tend to focus on the manifest areas like the jaw or the actual crooked teeth. Correcting severe positional errors is crucial, but if issues such as mouth breathing, weak lips, unbalanced facial muscles, tongue thrust or reverse swallowing are ignored, braces will only be a temporary fix.
Braces can be effective, and they're often necessary for a number of people. Thinking of them as an end-all cure for crooked teeth fails to take the entire picture into consideration, however. To fully recover, additional modalities such as myofunctional therapy may be worth considering.
Myofunctional Therapy for Maintaining Oral Health
Whether you've had braces and are concerned about your teeth drifting out of alignment again, or if you see your child developing patterns that could promote crooked teeth, myofunctional therapy may be able to get things back on track.
Myofunctional therapy works to identify the cause of one's crooked teeth. A childhood habit may have changed the structure of the face. An ongoing behavior or condition could even be affecting tooth orientation right now, including blocked nasal passageways or mouth breathing!
By identifying causal factors and taking steps to correct them, myofunctional therapy can prevent teeth from shifting out of place. If addressed early, this can mean no more post-braces relapse, and in some cases, no crooked teeth in the first place
Promoting Straight Teeth
Correct habits are the key to maintaining straight teeth throughout life. We can't always control how our teeth move or develop, but we do have a tremendous ability to change the patterns that lead to crooked teeth.
These are just a few conditions a myofunctional therapist will consider when examining you or your child for potential causes of crooked teeth:
Diagnosing the root cause of dental issues can help backslides both before and after wearing braces. Without eliminating the source, those crooked teeth will just keep coming back.
Stay on the path to dental wellness by removing harmful habits and promoting straight and healthy teeth. Starting early can be a huge advantage, so get in touch and set up an appointment today!
November 22nd, 2018
What Is Sleep Apnea? How Can Myofunctional Therapy Address it?
Sleep is essential for our daily well-being. A good night's rest makes us feel alert and creative, able to take on a world of challenges. Interrupt that sleep, though, and issues like headaches or fatigue start to creep in. The body simply cannot function without proper rest, and as anyone with sleep apnea knows, getting that rest is often completely out of their control.
Most people think obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a permanent condition they'll just have to learn to live with. Surgery and uncomfortable CPAP machines may provide temporary relief, but the long-term outlook is usually pretty grim. Fortunately, it's possible myofunctional therapy can provide a safe and effective path back to a normal night's sleep.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a collection of disorders characterized by shallow breathing or even full pauses in breath during sleep. The interruptions are generally brief, lasting between 20-40 seconds, but it's enough to disrupt sleep patterns, cause loud snoring, and create a host of health-related issues during the day.
It's estimated as many as 6% of adults suffer from some sort of sleep apnea. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where the upper airway becomes physically constricted to impede proper breathing. This usually happens as a result of the tongue and soft tissues in the oral cavity sagging to the back of the throat.
Many OSA sufferers are unaware of their condition, as it usually only manifests during sleep. The initial symptoms such as fatigue or headache are not unique to sleep apnea, allowing the condition to go undiagnosed for months, years, or even decades.
What Causes Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Any imbalance that affects soft tissue surrounding the upper airway can cause early stage sleep apnea. It takes surprisingly little for breathing to be interrupted, especially while we're at rest. Standard diagnostic methods often cite the following as the most common causes of obstructive sleep apnea in adults:
Using these causes to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea can be hit or miss. They're pretty generic, after all, and none of them are guaranteed to cause OSA. Furthermore, sleep apnea frequently appears in patients who do not meet any of the above criteria, making the condition something of a mystery to modern eyes.
Common Symptoms and Treatments for OSA
Snoring, fatigue, and other sleep apnea symptoms can occur in healthy adults and are generally no cause for concern. If they become chronic, however, it's time to investigate the condition more thoroughly.
Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea can vary from person to person based on a variety of factors, including age, gender, and underlying causes. Most people experience one or more of the following symptoms, however:
There is no one-size-fits-all cure for sleep apnea. The usual treatment methods include nasal decongestants, surgery, oral appliances and nightly use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines. Unfortunately, none of these methods fix the underlying cause of sleep apnea, and they're both uncomfortable and expensive, as well.
Myofunctional Approach to OSA
Myofunctional therapy views the body from a unique perspective. Instead of starting with a list of symptoms and attempting to relieve them one by one, a myofunctional therapist searches for the cause of an issue and works to eliminate it at the source.
The origins of sleep apnea can be as innocent as improper tongue positioning or a habit of breathing through the mouth, for example. Identifying these contributing factors is the first step in restoring the physiology to its balanced state.
Once the myofunctional therapist has assessed the problem, a treatment plan can be enacted. This often includes daily exercises to strengthen the soft tissues and re-pattern the muscles (including the tongue) surrounding the upper airway in order to restore correct breathing patterns that persist even while we sleep.
Tongue, Teeth, and Throat
Standard diagnostic methods often look for overt causal factors such as obesity or drug abuse. For many who suffer from OSA, however, the causes can be much subtler. We rarely think of our facial muscles, mouth, or lower jaw in relation to breathing. The truth is these structures, along with proper tongue positioning and balanced jaw alignment, have a profound impact on each breath we take.
A tongue that rests too low in the mouth, for example, encourages breathing through the mouth instead of the nose. This changes the muscle movements associated with breathing, strengthening tissues that normally remain at rest or under-utilizing muscles that should remain engaged. This enforces breathing patterns the physiology is not accustomed to, creating chronic conditions such as sleep apnea.
Myofunctional therapy works to re-pattern the muscles of the tongue and soft palate to restore correct breathing, chewing, and swallowing habits. Through daily activities and other corrective procedures, patients can train their bodies to breathe normally once again. It doesn't matter how old they, there's a good chance myofunctional therapy can help mild-to-moderate OSA.
Finding Wellness Again
No two diseases have the exact same cause. Every person, every physiology is completely unique. By approaching issues such as obstructive sleep apnea from a causal point of view, myofunctional therapy can reduce symptoms by repairing imbalances at their origin. It's safe, non-invasive, and best of all, extraordinarily effective.
Prevention is one of myofunctional therapy's most powerful tools. You don't have to wait until you're losing sleep to start working towards wellness. Catching small malocclusions, breathing problems, or tongue posture issues as early as childhood can prevent a lifetime of suffering.
Are the signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea starting to appear in your life? Don't give it a chance to get worse. Contact us today and we'll build a wellness plan that keeps your physiology working the way it should!