Myofunctional therapy provides gentler, easier approach to orthodontics

Dec 15, 2017

Anxiety slowly began to set in. 

For the third time, Parker received the one diagnosis he had been dreading. He needed braces. 

For a child with anxiety issues directly related to his mouth, the thought of having teeth pulled followed by years of braces elicited nothing but fear and stress for the 9-year-old. 

While Parker’s parents knew something would eventually need to be done to close the gap between their son’s two front teeth and create additional space for his permanent teeth, they weren’t prepared when one orthodontist’s plan included having to laser Parker’s gums. 

“It was insane,” says Parker’s mother, Candice. “I thought this is not happening. We were freaked out.”

Having had braces herself as a child and remembering how much she relied on wax to protect her mouth, Candice knew braces would present a major problem for Parker. 

There had to be an alternative. 

Around the same time, Candice met Dr. Jill Morris and Dr. Burr Bakke, a husband-and-wife team who co-own World Class Dentistry in Sarasota. Known for taking a homeopathic approach to dental medicine, Dr. Morris and Dr. Bakke specialize in a variety of cutting-edge techniques, including myofunctional therapy, an alternative approach to orthodontics. 

“I’d never heard of it,” says Candice. “I went through extensive Google searches, and it’s really difficult to find people doing this type of proactive trendsetting.”

A gentler, easier approach to orthodontics, myofunctional therapy is an exercise-based treatment designed to teach children how to breathe properly while correcting tongue position and oral muscles of the face at the same time. 

Traditionally, orthodontics involved removing teeth to make space and then putting brackets on the teeth and using wires to move them. But while the process created beautiful straight teeth, it forced the tongue back in the throat, creating breathing problems and the possibility of sleep apnea. 

Generally speaking, orthodontics doesn’t correct the bad habits that often start at birth and can continue into adulthood. As a result, a lot of people have to have braces not once but two or three times. 

If improper tongue position and development isn’t corrected early on, it can lead to enlarged tonsils and adenoids and allergies, as well as crooked teeth, elongated faces and protruded chins. 

“Once they grow that way, you’re limited in what you can do in bringing them back to genetic capability,” says Dr. Morris. 

At World Class Dentistry, Dr. Morris and Dr. Bakke are using alternative orthodontics to teach children as young as 5 years old how to properly position their tongue on the roof of their mouth and how to breathe through their nose. When the tongue is positioned properly, the upper jaw will grow with a nice, wide forward arch, resulting in beautiful chins and better facial development. This helps children reach their maximum DNA potential.

In addition to better facial development, myofunctional therapy leads to straighter teeth, improved nasal breathing and more often than not eliminates the need for braces. 

“We’re working with children so they live a better, healthier and more functioning life as they get older; and the results have been astounding and amazing,” says Dr. Morris. “It really is never too late. The stem cells are still there even in adults, so growth can still occur at any age.”

For Parker, who has spent years controlling his anxiety with acupuncture, vitamins and supplements, the homeopathic approach has proven to be exactly what Parker and his parents were hoping for. 

In August, Parker was fitted for a removable growth appliance. After taking molds of his teeth, Parker was fitted with a retainer designed specifically for him. The retainer has a pair of wires attached to it, which go behind Parker’s teeth and will help pull his two front teeth together. 

While having the impressions made did little for Parker’s anxiety, it didn’t take long for Parker to get used to the retainer itself. 

“I was on pins and needles,” says Candice. “It’s kind of a miracle we found them at the time. He’s just doing fantastic with it. I can’t give them higher praise for how easy they are to work with and their willingness to navigate through our challenging issues with Parker. They put him totally at ease.”

Since he’s been wearing his growth appliance, Parker has taken significant steps forward. 

“He’s becoming more comfortable with tongue position and feels safe having something in there and knowing it won’t compromise his breathing,” says Laura Smith, an orthodontic technician at World Class Dentistry who has been working with Parker. 

Every week, Parker’s retainer is adjusted based on the length and height of his teeth. In addition to wearing his growth appliance, Parker also completes a series of tongue exercises designed to teach him to swallow and breathe correctly. 

“The tongue is a muscle, and you can retrain a muscle,” says Laura. “It’s habit training. It’s all about retraining your tongue to go in the correct position.”

Eventually Parker will transition into a myobrace, a mouth guard-type device that will help him learn to breathe through his nose and not his mouth. The device also will help keep Parker’s tongue forward and continue to help Parker’s upper jaw grow and develop, creating the necessary space for his permanent teeth. 

“If you give the teeth enough room, they’ll know where to go and will align properly,” says Dr. Bakke.

As the top arch develops and grows, the airway will open up and get bigger as well. The alternative orthodontics process typically takes between six to eight months to complete, but it all depends on the child’s compliance and willingness to do the exercises. 

“Every child is different,” says Laura. “It all depends on their bite and how many baby teeth or permanent teeth they have. We still follow the same protocol depending on their development.”