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  • Writer's picturePaula Anderson, R.D.H.

What Age Should Children Start Myofunctional Therapy?

It is one of the most exciting pieces of news you have ever anticipated, and whether you are a first time parent or a seasoned pro, learning the gender of your baby is one of the most exciting moments of a parent’s life. ….and then you remember!!! It's only the halfway mark!?!? 18 weeks, still 4 1/2 months to go?

toddler sleeping on his side

It can seem like an eternity of anticipation from that point on, but would you believe from that early stage of the pregnancy that your baby has already learned how to swallow! That is how important swallowing is in the very coding of our DNA. It is incredible that before your little bundle of joy has fingerprints, ever opens those little eyes and months before those tiny little lungs have ever taken a breath, that, hard at work are the airway and swallowing muscles!

Between weeks 16-20 of development, each of us, in utero, had learned to swallow. So when orofacial disorders occur and are not treated they can have devastating effects over the course of a child’s development.

Just some of effects a Myofunctional Disorder(OMDs) will have on a child’s development

  • Abnormal Jaw Growth (Retrognathic Jaw)

  • Sleep Disordered Breathing, and Sleep Apnea

  • Airway Restriction during sleep

  • Orthodontic Intervention (Needs Braces)

  • Malocclusion (Inferior Bite)

  • Dark Eye Circles

  • Under-Oxygenation

  • Speech Issues

Myofunctional Disorders (OMDs) will also cause your child’s body language and behavior to compensate, forming negative acquired habits such as:

  • Eating with Mouth Open (smacking)

  • Avoidance of speaking

  • Poor Tongue Posture

  • Incorrect head and neck posture (slouching)

  • Tongue Thrust

  • Lip Biting

  • Fingernail Chewing

  • And many more

With all those imminent downsides to not treating the root cause of an OMD it is no wonder so many parents inquire about how to help their children from a young age. That is why so much research and development has been done over the past few decades to develop myofunctional programs for patients as young as 2 years old.

toddler climbing out of a sandbox

In fact, entire programs exist, such as MiniMyo, that are specifically designed for toddlers ages 2-4. These programs can be fantastic for certain patients so getting an initial consultation scheduled to determine when the right time to start might be. It is always important to discuss each child’s situation in the consultation to develop the best program for success. Starting at this age 2 has been shown to promote proper airway muscle strength and jaw development.

As babies our tongues are designed to rest at the top of our mouths. When swallowing properly, the tongue puts around 500g of pressure on the tissue of this area (incisive papilla), which through a series of nerves and blood vessels, activates the pituitary gland and releases endorphins. If a child is not swallowing correctly the release of these endorphins and growth hormones will need to be compensated for; often leading to habit forming behavior such as thumb sucking or pacifier dependence. By correcting the root cause of this behavior with Myofunctional Therapy, your child can grow and develop without these compensatory measures.

If your child is over age 2, the good news is that ALL Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders can still be corrected with therapy. At roughly age 4 children can utilize a full Myofunctional Therapy program to correct or adjust anything that might have gone undiagnosed through their toddler years.

So Lets Review the timetable:

  • Age 0-2: Observe your child’s habits, encourage teething, proper swallowing and chewing.

  • Ages 2-4: Good time to start programs specifically designed to work with toddlers. Emphasis on training the child in proper development of breathing and tongue posture.

  • Ages 4-18: Eligible for Adult Myofunctional Programs. Focus of promotion of proper facial and palatal development. Retraining the body to naturally increase airway flow may be necessary at this stage.

  • Teens and Adolescents: Children who have reached puberty may have already cemented some compensatory habits such as low tongue posture, tongue thrust, or mouth breathing that will need to be “unlearned”. Focus is on long term health and wellbeing as your child approaches adulthood.

It first and foremost is my goal to spread the word about Myofunctional therapy’s many benefits. That's why I thank you so much for reading and educating yourself about airway health for your family; and please know I am always here to help and answer your questions. Remember to follow our social media accounts for all the latest news and update and “like” MyoMatters so we can keep you informed.

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