Myofunctional therapy is a study of the tongue and facial muscles. Dentists are now turning a keen eye on this in relation to breastfed babies who are being weaned. In a nutshell, babies who excessively suck on bottles, pacifiers or fingers develop a habit of allowing the tongue to rest down and forward, and this can cause problems with chewing and swallowing. To avoid this, it is possible to wean your baby in such a way that he or she does not have problems in the future with solids.
According to dental experts, poor chewing from “baby-led” weaning can be the cause for abnormal use of facial muscles. The way a baby latches on to the breast and how the baby is weaned can mean issues like snoring, thumb sucking, and even dentures in the future.
There are three basic facts about chewing, Western-style that should be understood.
- Chewing is a delayed process and the more delayed it is, the harder it becomes for the child’s body to properly develop its chewing muscles and salivary glands.
- At the first sign of a tooth eruption, parents should start giving the baby semi-solid foods of different textures. This is to help develop the cheek muscles. This is the start of what dentists call “baby-led weaning.”
- If chewing is delayed, the palate bones tend to grow thinner.
This last fact was the finding in a study done by dentists on the effect of processed food and the development of the mouth and face. The dentists studied ancient skulls and compared them with today’s average mouth. They discovered that with modern food, the process of bone and muscle development has slowed down because modern food does not require as much chewing. Thus, the health and growth of the throat and lower sinuses among babies who have experienced delayed chewing tend to be affected. The dentists even go so far as to suggest that it could be the reason many people suffer from conditions with their airways like sleep apnea. More on this topic will be discussed in Los Angeles during the first Congress of the Academy of Applied Myofunctional Sciences starting September 9.
While all of this information is a lot to take in for parents, the bottom line is do not panic. Consider talking to your dentist about any weaning concerns that you may have.