Join Me On The Myo Munchee Global Tour

The Myo Munchee is one of my favorite myofunctional therapy products. I’ve been using it in my practice for years, and for good reason. It works!

The Myo Munchee is designed to encourage chewing and to activate the muscles of mastication - the masseters, temporals, and medial and lateral pterygoids - as well as many of the facial muscles and lips

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Chewing correctly is an important part of being a child. When we can get kids to chew, we can help encourage and promote optimal facial growth and jaw development. But in a world of soft foods specifically intended for babies and younger children, effective chewing isn’t always happening as often as it should be.

That’s why I suggest that many of my patients use the Myo Munchee with their children. I even include a Myo Munchee in the treatment kits for all of the patients in my Mini Myo programs for kids under five years of age.

Besides the obvious chewing-related benefits, Myo Munchees can also help with mouth breathing. When kids use a Munchee, they pretty much have to use their nose to breathe. And that’s important to me as a myofunctional therapist, especially when you consider my Four Goals of Myofunctional Therapy.

The Myo Munchee Global Tour

Years ago, I used to joke with my patients that I should work for the Myo Munchee company because I promote their products so much.

Now here I am, honored to be collaborating with them for their USA MyoMunchee Tour. I’ve met the Myo Munchee team at various conferences and seminars, and I’ve been able to get to know some of them quite well. So I was thrilled when the CEO, Mary Bourke, reached out and asked me to join them as a presenter on the USA leg of their upcoming global tour.  

If you’re a myofunctional therapist, a doctor of any kind, a dentist or orthodontist, a speech pathologist, a dental hygienist, a body worker, or any other type of healthcare professional who is passionate about kids health, you should join me at one of the Myo Munchee courses starting on June 8th 2019.

These courses are described as “…the most comprehensive Myo Munchee education event ever. “Protocols for a New Generation” is the first of an international educational series for the long awaited Myo Munchee Manual. We will be presenting our clinical protocols from Dental, Myofunctional and Manual Therapy perspectives. This will be a unique opportunity to not only learn Myo Munchee best practices, but also to network with like-minded professionals to build your own referral system and team in your own city.

We’ll be in Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, and Dallas, talking all about the Myo Munchee and how it can be used to help your patients. I hope to see you there!

Click here to find out more about the Myo Munchee Global Tour.

Click here to find out more about the product.

And here’s a video I shot a while back about the Myo Munchee:


 

My Interview On A Doctor’s Perspective Podcast

I was recently interviewed by Dr. Justin Trosclair, D.C. for his A Doctor’s Perspective Podcast. The podcast episode just went live and I’m glad to be able to share it with you on my MyoMentor blog.

Since my earliest days as a myofunctional therapist, I’ve been focused on spreading the message about myofunctional therapy to as many patients and health professionals as possible. In the early days of my career, it was a bit of a struggle because myofunctional therapy just wasn’t all that well known.

But over the last few years, that’s all changed, and this podcast is just one example of the paradigm shift that’s happening in the world of myofunctional therapy.

The field is becoming more prominent all the time, and health professionals around the world are starting to take serious notice about myofunctional therapy and how it needs to be included as part of a holistic approach to preventing and treating a wide range of health conditions.

Dr. Trosclair is a chiropractor, and I take it as a great sign that he reached out to me because he heard about myofunctional therapy through a doctor he interviewed on his podcast.

What was the connection?

The doctor in question practices sleep medicine. Myofunctional therapy is an indispensable part of any multidisciplinary approach to treating sleep disordered breathing conditions including obstructive sleep apnea and Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome. Once he heard about the field, Dr. Trosclair decided to do some research about myofunctional therapy, which led him to my Faceology website.

I’m seeing this type of connection on a daily basis in my practice as the word about myofunctional therapy spreads further and further. Myofunctional therapy is a critical part of addressing and treating sleep disordered breathing, tongue-ties, and TMD issues, along with other health conditions ranging from gastrointestinal disturbances to dental and gum issues.

As the patients and professionals dealing with these conditions become more aware of the benefits of the therapy, my practice is getting busier and busier. I’m about to hire another therapist for my treatment team, which shows just how much my practice has expanded in the last few years as the field has grown.

What’s In This Episode?

We covered a lot of ground in the podcast. I think almost anyone interested in myofunctional therapy will find something of interest when they listen to it, whether they’re an experienced myofunctional therapist or someone newly introduced to the field or a dentist interested in learning more about it.

The topics include:

The goals of myofunctional therapy

Why do we even need myofunctional therapy?

What are some of the reasons why people stop nasal breathing and instead develop a mouth breathing habit?

How mouth breathing can change the shape of a growing child’s jaw and face, and the long-term ramifications of these developmental changes.

How can sleep apnea develop from suboptimal craniofacial development.

Simple myofunctional therapy-related questions to use while getting a health history from a patient.

What facial characteristics are common and easily noticeable on people who have oral-myofunctional disorders?

Thumb sucking, pacifier use, and breast feeding

Are tongue ties a result of epigenetic changes?

What’s the difference between anterior and posterior tongue ties?

Can myofunctional therapy allow children to not need orthodontic treatment?

Can orthodontic appliances help people with oral-myofunctional disorders? 

Why did I switch from my brick and mortar practice locations to doing telemedicine and starting an online-only practice?

I’ve done several podcasts and been interviewed a lot over the years, but this is definitely one of my favorite interviews ever. It was great to get into the business aspects of myofunctional therapy in our discussion. I hope you enjoy it!

You can click the image above or here to access the episode, and the links to listen to the podcast on various platforms are below:

Direct Listen Links:

Apple Podcast
Spotify
Stitcher
Google Play

Myofunctional Therapy Training - The Paradigm Is Shifting

You’ll notice that on this site, I often mention how quickly the field of myofunctional therapy is growing. I keep seeing evidence of this in the number of patients, doctors, and hygienists who are contacting me. There’s been a huge surge of interest in the last couple of years.

But I’ve recently seen some of the most compelling evidence yet.

My latest myofunctional therapy program sold out, just like the last three, but that’s not what got me thinking. I noticed that over 70% of the students on this program are hygienists who will be practicing myofunctional therapy in a dental practice. In most cases, the dentist that owns the practice is putting them through the program.

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This is a huge change from the way things used to be. When I first started working as a myofunctional therapist, it was almost unheard of for a dentist to be training hygienists as myofunctional therapists. The vast majority of students were hygienists looking for a career change or for better ways to help their patients. 

In recent years however, the percentages have begun to change. A couple of years ago, I would occasionally have a dentist training a hygienist through my program. Now it’s increasingly looking like most of my future students will be practicing in a dental office.

To me, that’s an undeniable sign that’s the dental field is not only recognizing but embracing myofunctional therapy. This of course means that the field is becoming increasingly mainstream.

This was also recently driven home for me by the number of researchers, doctors and dentists all working to further the field. I was thrilled to see the enthusiasm and professionalism displayed by hundreds of attendees at the two conferences I attended in September.

I was at the Orthotropics Symposium in London and at the AAMS (Academy of applied myofunctional sciences) Congress in Rome. It quickly became clear that there are so many research projects being done, textbooks being written, and protocols being finalized at the moment. I believe that these advances, along with the dramatically increased awareness of myofunctional therapy are going to drive the field until it’s as commonplace and mainstream as dentistry or orthodontics.

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All of which makes me very happy!

Myofunctional therapy can help so many patients, and address an amazing number of health concerns. I know that the field and every single one of us practicing in it can make an enormous difference. I see it on a daily basis in my practice, and I often hear it from the graduates of my programs.

If you’d like to find out more about myofunctional therapy, and how it can be integrated into a dental practice, or how it could enhance or even change your hygiene career, then please feel free to reach out. I’ll be happy to have a chat.

The ADA Is Embracing Airway Dentistry

It’s become clear to me that the field of myofunctional therapy is in a real growth phase right now. As I say on the homepage of this site, the field is exploding!

Frankly, I think the surge is only just getting started. As more and more patients and medical professionals begin to truly understand the importance of the airway, we’ll see myofunctional therapy become very mainstream and well known.

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The American Dental Association (ADA) has recognized that airway health is critical. Earlier this year, there was a new policy statement on the Role of Dentistry in the Treatment of Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders. This statement recommends that dentists screen their patients for sleep disordered breathing, bringing sleep medicine firmly into the dental arena, and not just in the highly specialized way it’s been applied in the past. This is an organizational-level initiative.

Sleep Dentistry is Airway Dentistry

Some readers may wonder how I’m connecting a focus on sleep apnea and other types of sleep disordered breathing with the airway.

Well, sleep dentistry is airway dentistry. You can’t address sleep disordered breathing without addressing the airway. Even if the treatment in question is a mandibular advancement appliance, it’s designed to open the airway.

For example, the SomnoMed website has this to say on the subject of sleep apnea:

“While we sleep, gravity and muscle relaxation allows the tongue and surrounding soft tissue to fall back into the throat area, collapsing the airway and obstructing the air flow.

Continuous Open Airway Therapy (COAT)® is a category of products that treat patients seeking an easy, efficient solution for OSA, or obstructive sleep apnea.”

Regardless of the approach taken to treat sleep disordered breathing, the airway is going to considered one way or another.

Airway Health is Here!

As further confirmation that the ADA is seriously acknowledging the importance of the airway, I noticed the fact that there was an interesting conference recently at ADA Headquarters in Chicago. The conference was titled 2018 Children’s Airway Health – A Practical Conference.

The conference was described as follows:

"The Children's Airway Health – A Practical Conference is a two day event that will impact your ability to recognize compromised airway health in your pediatric patients and give dentists and their team tools for engaging families in the diagnostic and treatment pathways. To be able to make a true difference in the lives of children and families, the dentist needs to recognize children at risk, know what to say, who to work with, and how to get paid for services."

Some of the topics, and the speakers for that matter, would be instantly recognizable to anyone who’s been working in myofunctional therapy for a while.

Dr. Christian Guilleminault, MD is a prolific researcher on the topic of the airway. He spoke about Sleep Disordered Breathing, and Dr. Barry Raphael, DMD spoke about Orthodontics with an Airway Focus.

Other topics included An Airway Focused Approach To Dental Clinical Care by Dr. Mark Cruz, DDS, and it was great to see myofunctional therapy being discussed as well – Kristie Gatto, MA spoke about Myofunctional Therapy and the Airway.

It’s so encouraging to me to see all of these exciting developments in the field. And it definitely isn’t limited to the USA – it’s a global shift.  

I’m leaving in a few days to attend the IAFGG (International Association of Facial Growth Guidance Orthotropics Symposium in London, followed by the AAMS (Academy of Applied Myofunctional Sciences) Congress in Rome.

The list of internationally-based speakers and topics at both events is impressive to say the least. Here’s what will be covered at the AAMS Conference:

  • History of Craniofacial Intervention
  • Sleep - Pulmonology - Neurology - Psychiatry - Dental Sleep
  • Surgery - Sleep Surgery - Oral Surgery - Soft Tissue
  • Surgery
  • Otolaryngology
  • Posture
  • Genetics/Epigenetics
  • Evolution
  • Chewing, Nutrition, and Diet
  • Dentistry - Orthodontic - Pediatric Dental - Dental Hygiene
  • Psychology of Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMDs)
  • Early Intervention, from Pregnancy to Newborn
  • Speech-Language Pathology
  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Lactation Consulting
  • Public Health
  • Research

Click the image below to download the full AAMS Congress flyer.

It’s a sign of things to come – there’s so much research and great work being done around the world, and it will all translate into better outcomes for our patients. Myofunctional therapy is a perfect fit for airway dentistry. There’s no better time to be part of this amazing field!

Epigenetics and Tongue-Tie

I recently hosted Stacy Fletcher, RDH BS OMT on my Myomentor Study Club call. The topic was Epigenetics and Tongue-Tie but as she put it in her introductory slide, it could have been called Epigenetics - What It Is, And Why It's Making Us The Sickest Generation Yet!

As I said in this post on my Faceology website, the subject of tongue-ties has gone from being something few of my patients had ever heard of to something I get contacted about on a daily basis. Stacey goes into a lot of detail on the MTHFR gene mutation that's connected to tongue-ties, and she covers so much else including:

  1. The definition of epigentics
  2. DNA methylation and its role in the body
  3. Nutrigenomics - the study of nutrition and genes
  4. Methyl genetic nutrition
  5. Eating for your genes
  6. Water
  7. Makeup and clothing
  8. Antibiotics
  9. Stress
  10. Oral development
  11. Folic acid supplementation for pregnant women

I think this call was one of the most interesting we've ever had on the Study Club. It really is essential listening for any myofunctional therapist or health practitioner, and not just those who deal with the mouth and tongue-ties.

 

Take Action, Change Your Life

I was watching a Tony Robbins video on YouTube recently, and something he said really resonated with me. He was asking the people in his audience why they were there – to improve their businesses, or even to start a business. To change a relationship they were in, or to find happiness. Whatever the reason, everyone was there to improve something in his or her life.

But Tony pointed out a key factor that’s absolutely critical: without action, there can be no progress.

You can have the best of intentions, a long list of goals, or even an amazing plan for your business, but without taking action, nothing is ever going to happen.

I know this in my own life, and of course, in my myofunctional therapy practice. When I was working as a hygienist, and looking for a change in my career, I came up with a few alternatives. I was thinking about going back to college and studying to be a dentist. I also had the idea of doing an MBA or some other business degree and moving completely out of hygiene. But with a pile of student loan debt, I was unsure about what to do, and for a while there, I was actually too afraid to do anything.

But I was lucky enough to hear about myofunctional therapy, and the training available at the time seemed like a far easier option than years of going back to school. So I resolved to take action, and I did. I attended the training course, but then I defaulted to staying in hygiene while I tentatively explored being a therapist. I didn’t make too much progress until I finally decided to take action again, which is when I quit dental hygiene to practice myofunctional therapy full-time.

That wasn’t easy, and I certainly don’t recommend it for everyone. In fact, in those early days, I thought I’d made a terrible mistake. In time however, those two action steps proved to have been the very best things I could have done. I’m so happy with my practice now but without them, I’m not sure where I’d be or what I’d be doing.

That’s been the case over and over. I’d wanted to start teaching other dental hygienists how to break free and improve their careers too, but for the longest time, I was stuck in a trap that we all fall into – trying to get everything “perfect” before I got started.  But chasing perfection does nothing but hold us back.

Then, one day in 2014 I took action again, and the results have been fantastic. I’ve just finished my fifth mentoring program, with the next one due to start early in January next year. I’ve been so fortunate to meet wonderful hygienists from all over the world, and their feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I have to say I love mentoring hygienists. It’s fulfilling and fun, and I learn so much from each program and every student.

So, if there’s a message in this article, and a moral to the story – it’s just this: You have to take action if you want to move forward. Some action is better than none, and the bigger the change you want to bring into your life, the more urgent that action has to be.

But it doesn’t have to be a huge, dramatic decision. For me, just taking that original myofunctional therapy course changed my life in ways I could never have imagined. Looking back, I can’t believe how far I’ve come since then.

I’d urge you to take one action today that’ll get you started to improving your life in some way. It doesn’t have to be anything to do with your career, it could be health-related, or revolve around your relationship or family, but whatever you do, do something. Your life will change if you do, I can promise you that.

 

Sleep Apnea On The High Intensity Health Podcast

As many of you will know, I love being able to spread the message about myofunctional therapy, and all the ways it can be used to help treat and ease so many health conditions. So I was incredibly excited to be asked to appear on Mike Mutzel’s High Intensity Health podcast recently.

Mike's podcast is described as "The Best of Fitness, Nutrition and Functional Medicine", and I think he covers all those topics very well! He's a great interviewer with a real wealth of knowledge. He made me feel very relaxed and comfortable, so I had a lot of fun.

We went over a number of interesting topics that are important to me including sleep apnea, the microbiome and mouth breathing among others, all of which can make a big difference to health and well-being. I hope you enjoy watching this video of the podcast - the interview was professionally filmed, so the production quality is really high.

If you have any questions, comments or other feedback, I'd love to hear from you, so feel free to leave a comment below, or to drop me a note right here

What's Your Elevator Speech?

Around five years ago, I was at a dinner party with some friends and acquaintances, and a lot of other people I didn’t know. As the people around me made small talk and snacked on appetizers, I could feel anxiety building in the pit of my stomach. As usual at these types of events, people were talking about their careers, and at some point I knew someone would ask me the question I dreaded most. And of course, someone did ask me exactly that:

“So what do you do?”

“Well, um…” I fumbled nervously, “I’m a dental hygienist.”

I was very aware that my answer wasn’t exactly true. I had quit clinical hygiene over a year ago, and had started a fledging myofunctional therapy practice that had transformed my life and career into something completely new and different from dental hygiene.

One of my good friends knew this too, and after the party, he pulled me aside and asked “Why don’t you ever tell people what you really do?”

“It’s just too difficult to explain.” I responded. “No one understands what myofunctional therapy is, and it’s much easier to avoid the explanation and funny looks.”

His reply stunned me: “But don’t you understand that you’re completely undermining yourself and missing opportunities by doing that? If you can’t even talk about what you do, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it. You should be proud of the business you’ve started, and the help you offer people. That’s something to shout about, not something to hide. You just need to come up with a good Elevator Speech.”

I was taken aback by my friend’s brutal honesty, but I knew it was true. I needed to be able to tell people about myofunctional therapy in a simple, concise but effective way. I decided to look into his advice.

So what exactly is an Elevator Speech?

An Elevator Speech is a short, carefully planned, and well-practiced description about yourself, your career, or your business that you could easily explain to anyone in the time it would take to ride up an elevator. 

It’s almost like a commercial about who you are, what you do, and how you can benefit a company or organization – in my case a potential patient or referring doctor.

I believe a good Elevator Speech is crucial for every myofunctional therapist who wants to have a successful career. Think about this example:

You’re at the airport and you suddenly run into a dentist you used to work for. After exchanging pleasantries, she asks you where you’re working these days. You open your mouth, and then pause because the answer isn’t so easy. Where on Earth do you start?

Then, as you try to organize your thoughts, her flight is called, and she's on her way. If you'd been better prepared, you're sure that she'd have stayed long enough to exchange information and organize a lunch meeting to learn more about myofunctional therapy.

This is just one situation where having a prepared response could have led to a potential new career opportunity and business connection.

Now, this time, imagine having an Elevator Speech about myofunctional therapy ready to go. You might respond this way instead:

“I’m actually not doing hygiene these days, I’m now a myofunctional therapist. I work with patients who have health issues related to mouth breathing, tongue-tie and tongue thrust. I teach them swallowing, eating, drinking and breathing exercises, and the results I get are pretty amazing.”

“Have you ever heard of myofunctional therapy?”

“Let me give you my card. I’d love for you to check out my website, or maybe we could meet for lunch sometime if you’d like to find out more about my practice?”

Now that you can understand how an Elevator Speech might sound, and you can see the reasons for having one, it’s time to come up with an Elevator Speech of your own. I’ve broken it down into three components for you:

1.     Make it interesting and clear – define what you do in your own words

2.     Keep it simple but precise – make sure that you explain how you add value and benefit others

3.     End with a question and a call to action – always try to exchange information

A good Elevator Speech is one of the key components to a successful myofunctional therapy career. How many business opportunities are you missing because you don’t have a prepared response to questions about your practice or career?

Elevator Speeches are just one of many components to success that I cover in my mentoring programs, so I’m hoping that the information in this article will be beneficial to you as well. Now get out there and make some new connections! :)

 

 

Awareness

I can usually tell within the first few weeks of working with a patient, how the next six months to a year of their treatment will play out. There are of course a number of factors to take into account, but what I can tell you for sure is that patients who display higher levels of self-awareness get better results. They may not do the exercises perfectly, they may not practice every day (although they know that’s not good), and they may struggle more than some of the people I work with, but having self-awareness gets them further than any exercise ever will.

In fact, the concept of “Awareness” has become a cornerstone of my practice. We could have our patients practice Button Pull or Spray Bottle exercises 10 times a day, but if they don’t have awareness of their tongue and mouth, their progress in treatment will be slow. They’re also more likely to hit plateaus in their progress after only the first four to six weeks, and to struggle in the long run.

Let’s take two of my patients for example – Shyla and Emily.

Both girls were seven years old at the time of treatment, and both had thumb-sucking habits. The biggest difference between them was that one had more awareness about her mouth and habits than the other.

Shyla began treatment with me in order to help her eliminate her thumb sucking habit. She was very dedicated with the Thumb Therapy, and was able to quit her sucking habit within just a few days. When it came to the exercises that followed Thumb Therapy, she was one of my most diligent patients. She practiced at least twice a day, and her mom was so dedicated to helping her with the exercises that they incorporated them into her home school study routine. They were a shining example of how I wished every family practiced the exercises, and I was always impressed by their commitment.

However, after all that hard work and persistence, Shyla’s mom was still constantly catching her with her mouth open – a sign that her habits weren’t changing and that the exercises weren’t having the desired effect. Shyla struggled with the general concept of awareness. So while she was an expert at practicing, she wasn’t entirely able to grasp the concept or “big picture” of the treatment.

Now let’s look at Emily. She also started working with me because of a thumb sucking habit, and she was also able to quit that habit within the first few days and never look back. The difference was that Emily wasn’t all that great at doing her exercises. She normally practiced once a day, and her mom often let her do the exercises on her own. Sometimes when we met for appointments, she clearly hadn’t mastered the exercises I had assigned, and had to repeat them.

However, Emily was somehow able to develop an awareness of her tongue and mouth much more easily than Shyla. Her habits changed far quicker because she was aware of her tongue and mouth all day long, not just while practicing. She was able to catch herself when her mouth was open, and correct the habit every time.

The moral of this story is not that one girl was a good patient, and the other a bad patient. I believe that the point is much more about highlighting the differences in their learning styles and personalities.

As myofunctional therapists, we need to keep in mind that our patients are all so different, and that what works for one may not work for another.

From what I have experienced with my own patients, the subject of awareness is where these differences really become apparent. My therapy program has evolved to the point where I emphasize this concept starting with the first session. I believe that awareness is the key to success in any therapy program, and without it, patients will not get the best results.
Some people have it innately, and others must be taught.

So how do we teach our patients awareness? These are three of my go-to methods to make sure that patients get this concept from the start.

1.    Talk about the big picture right up front. I tell patients on the first day that my goal is to help them learn three things – nasal breathing, proper tongue placement, and keeping their mouth closed.

This may seem obvious, and of course we all know there is more to it than that, but the awareness message is what’s important here. I want my patients to know starting on day one that they need to have a closed mouth rather than an open mouth. So I tell them. I even repeat it a few times, and ask them to repeat it back to me. With younger patients, I make sure the parents get this concept as well. Then I make sure they understand that the exercises are there to help them reach that goal. Simply perfecting and doing the exercises won’t get them where they need to be.

2.    Encourage ongoing discussions about breathing, how our mouths should rest, and even about other people’s mouths. I want my patients to make this a topic of general family conversation, for example:
“Do you see dad’s mouth is open? We better tell him to close it” or “Wow, your sister is breathing through her nose, what a great job”. If children can get used to recognizing characteristics that are considered “good” and “bad” in other people, this will eventually translate into self-awareness in the same area. For adults, this is a subtler process but I still encourage this type of interaction with a spouse or friend if appropriate.

3.    Ask patients to track themselves every day, and have a routine around it before bed. This is a really simple exercise that has improved treatment results by leaps and bounds. The first step is getting people to think in generalized percentages.

For adults, this concept is a little easier, but children can have productive discussions with their parents as well. I ask people to write down the percentage of total time they believe their mouth was closed during the day. It may be as low as five percent but at least they’re aware of how they’re doing. This evening routine of choosing a percentage and writing it down is very powerful because patients will eventually see improvements and appreciate their own progress. The goal of this exercise is not actually the number itself, it’s really just about getting patients to become more aware of their habits.

As you can see, awareness is a huge piece of the puzzle when it comes to treating our patients and changing their habits for good. Anyone can learn awareness with a little help, and I hope these techniques will assist you when it comes to your own patients and developing their awareness.

What is a myofunctional therapist’s role when it comes to sleep apnea?

When it comes to sleep apnea, the field of myofunctional therapy seems to be filled with confusion. With so many practitioners from different backgrounds coming together, it’s easy to see why. Myofunctional therapists mostly have degrees in dental hygiene or speech pathology, but we tend to work with specialists ranging from pediatric dentists, orthodontists, and lactation consultants, to chiropractors, massage therapists, cranial osteopaths, and more.

We all have different perspectives on the same part of the body – the mouth – and we all want to do the best we can to provide quality care for our patients. So what makes the topic of sleep apnea so difficult?

I have one word for you, diagnosis.

This one little concept has a lot of fear, liability, protective wording, and general anxiety all wrapped around it, and I’m still not sure why.

As far as I know, the only practitioners who can diagnose sleep apnea are medical doctors. So this means that even a dentist who specializes in sleep dentistry can’t diagnose a patient with sleep apnea.

I’m not a dentist, and I’m definitely not a medical doctor, so this seems pretty cut and dry to me. As a dental hygienist or as a myofunctional therapist, I can’t diagnose a patient with sleep apnea, and neither can the orthodontist who referred the patient to me. Easy right?

What both the orthodontist and I can do however, is to be the best advocate for our patients’ health that we know how to be. As hygienists working in a dental office, we can become familiar with the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, and discuss these with our patients.

For example, if a patient in your chair tells you that he snores so loudly at night that his wife sleeps in the other room, and that he feels chronically tired and fatigued, and then he falls asleep in the chair while you’re cleaning his teeth, then you can recognize these signs as a potential problem. You can and should ask him about it. These are possible symptoms of sleep apnea, so it’s in the patient’s best interest for you and/or the dentist to recommend that he talk to his medical doctor about them. The dentist can even write a referral to a sleep clinic if your office has one they regularly refer to.

For me, practicing as a myofunctional therapist, I do this exact sort of thing in my own office. If I recognize symptoms that could be related to sleep apnea, I recommend that the patient talk to their doctor about it, and learn more about having a sleep test done.

I’ve linked a great article here from RDH Magazine about our role as hygienists when it comes to sleep apnea.

So what about treating my sleep apnea patients?

I treat them all the time but not specifically for their sleep apnea. I help them with their tongue posture, nasal breathing, chewing and swallowing foods and liquids, and learning new habits – in exactly the same way I work with all my other patients.

My patients who have sleep apnea are much the same as my patients who breathe normally and healthily at night. The only difference is that during their sessions with me, I often ask them about their CPAP machines or sleep appliances, and whether or not they have been wearing them. My goal is to help these patients stay compliant with what their doctors have recommended, and to act as a resource when they have questions.

Sometimes my patients are pretty smart, and they like to research their sleep apnea online. I’ve had a few ask me if the exercises that I teach them will help with their sleep apnea.

I think this is where a lot of myofunctional therapists start to get worried. But there’s no need.

So what do I tell these patients?

“Maybe” is my answer.

I tell my patients that my job is to help them retrain their tongue so that it rests in the proper position inside their mouth. It’s my job to help them learn to breathe through their nose and keep their mouth closed, and it’s my job to help them learn how to swallow without thrusting their tongue forward.

And that’s it!

However, I also tell them that if their sleep apnea symptoms improve by doing exercises, then that’s great. If they don’t improve, then it’s still great that they’ve learned new, healthier habits through working with me.

We are still learning about the benefits of oropharyngeal exercises when it comes to sleep apnea, and several studies, like the one here have been published recently suggesting that exercises may be a good complement to CPAP and sleep appliance use.

But for now, all I know is that it’s my responsibility to be an advocate for my patient’s best health, and that I’m in a really good position to recognize sleep apnea symptoms that may get missed by the patient, or their other practitioners. I’m happy to talk to them about sleep apnea if I recognize the signs and symptoms, because I realize that I may be the first person to catch it early enough to make a difference.

So, for all the other myofunctional therapists out there, and for all the hygienists aspiring to make this field part of your career, I hope this article inspires you to be less stressed and confused when it comes to sleep apnea.

Unless you are diagnosing sleep apnea, or telling patients that you will cure their sleep apnea with your myofunctional therapy exercises, you are on the right track! You’re helping patients by talking to them about it, and that’s the most important thing you can do.

The Easy Path to Getting Referrals

Hiking has always been one of my favorite pastimes. I love being out in nature and experiencing the quiet beauty, and the birds and animals while getting some exercise and fresh air at the same time. On my most recent hiking adventure, my thoughts drifted towards my business as I panted and puffed to the top of a particularly steep section of the trail. The topic of referrals came to mind, and an interesting comparison began to form – hiking, just like the way I receive referrals from dentists and orthodontists can be an quite an uphill battle!

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park

I’m not trying to be negative by any means – I believe it’s important to identify any bottlenecks and problem areas in my practice in order to keep things running smoothly. Any entrepreneur – from the hair salon owner across the street, to a Fortune 500 CEO –will tell you that the key to success for any business is to generate new leads and increase sales. This is true in the dental office as well. We all understand the importance of “production” and the scheduling priority that is often placed on a “New Patient Exam”.

In my case, my new business leads are patient referrals, so I depend a great deal on the doctors and dental offices that I work with. Without them, Faceology cannot exist. So yes, it can be an uphill battle!

The thing is, I’ve learned over the past five years that it doesn’t have to be that way. Just like hiking, with a little research beforehand, a map, or maybe even an app on your smartphone, you can choose the paths that are flatter and easier to navigate, so that you don’t end up sweaty and exhausted by the end.

Here are three strategies that I have developed to stay on the easy path when it comes to getting referrals:

1.       Do the work for them. Every hygienist knows how busy a dental practice can get! I put together mini information packets that the dentist or a front office person can simply hand to their patients. The pack has everything they need to know about me and what I do. I like to include a brochure, a referral form, and a questionnaire so that the patient has easy access to the information, even if there isn’t time to explain everything in the dental chair.

2.       The front office is your friend – these ladies are just as important as the dentist. If you aren’t on the same page as them, the dentist and patients may not even know you exist. I try to keep them in the loop with my latest patient information, business cards, and referral pads. These relationships are more valuable than you know!

3.       Keep doctors up to date with the latest research on myofunctional therapy. Dentists and doctors are busy, and they may not have time to read all the new studies on everything that’s happening in the entire dental field, so help them out a little. I like to keep it casual by sending articles via email and saying something like, “Hi Dr. Smith, I thought you may enjoy reading this – it looks like myofunctional therapy can help with snoring”.

The path to getting referrals doesn't have to be steep and difficult. It’s my goal to make referring easier for the doctors I work with, so that things are easier for me as well. It doesn't have to be difficult for you either if you just build your network and work on your relationships with key people. I cover the referral process, and many more tips on how to be successful in this area in much greater detail in my mentoring programs.


Techie Tips: Three things that have made my life as a therapist and business owner much easier!

It’s a unique time to be a small business owner because of the amount of technology right at our fingertips. It can be overwhelming to know that there is so much out there – where to start? How can it help me?  

When I mentor hygienists and work with my patients, I’m not just a healthcare provider – I need to be “in the know” about the latest and greatest ways to improve what I do and what I teach. In this article, I have highlighted three modern “techie” conveniences that have transformed the way I run my practice and work with my patients. 

SnoreLab App – Snorelab is an App that I like to have my adult patients download to their smartphones or tablets when we get to the sleeping phase of my therapy program. The App is designed to record, measure, and track snoring so that patients can get feedback each morning. It helps them stay in control of their breathing and snoring, and provides me with real data to see when their symptoms improve. As a myofunctional therapist, I want to know if my patients have really changed their habits and health. This App has helped me achieve that when it comes to snoring.

Adobe EchoSign – It’s so important to stay on top of the legal and contractual agreements we enter into with our patients. Adobe EchoSign is an online cloud based system for sending documents, collecting e-signatures, and storing all those important contracts. Making sure I have the right signatures in the right places is very important to me, so I use Adobe EchoSign each time I start a new treatment program with a patient. The patient has full access to all their documents as well, so there is never any confusion about the costs, details, or even whether or not they are alright with their photo being used for educational purposes.

Worktime Tracker App – When you don’t have a boss, and no one is checking whether or not you have “clocked out” for your lunch break, it can be hard to know how much time you actually spend working. That’s why, when I discovered the Worktime Tracker App, I was excited (and a little nervous) to finally be able to track my own hours. Worktime Tracker allows you to track hours spent on specific subjects or projects, which I find very convenient and helpful. I can track how many hours I spend working one-on-one with patients, vs. how much time I spend writing chart entries and doing admin work. It’s a great tool!

These are just a few helpful hints from my bag of tricks. I also use a cloud based accounting system and patient tracking and charting system, so that I can access my data from anywhere and all the security and HIPAA compliance is covered.

What's great is that all of these techie tools are either free or very inexpensive. Part of being a savvy business owner is finding effective ways to do things without breaking the bank. I cover all of these techie tricks and much more in my private and group mentoring programs if you want to find out more.

 

Feedback On My Mentoring Program

My Spring 2015 Introductory Mentoring Program is in full swing at the moment – we’re working through the first four week module, and the hygienists seem to be loving our twice-weekly calls.

The graduates from the Fall 2014 program (which finished in January 2015) are already seeing patients as myofunctional therapists. They’ve expanded their career choices and learned new ways to help people – I’m very proud of them.

I was thrilled to get some great feedback from Roxy, one of the Fall 2014 alumni. She had the following to say:

"Sarah's course is amazing in the understanding portion. I feel confident talking to patients and even felt confident in the meeting with the orthodontist. She is always available to answer questions about specific issues or how to treat a particular case. I am just starting to see patients and I have some insecurity just from lack of experience, but I know if I hit a snag Sarah will be a call or email away and that makes me feel secure.

Her course also covers the business end of things and that's really helpful.

I feel really excited and as prepared as possible without having any previous experience. Her course definitely covers everything and we went over things multiple times so I've retained most of it. I have copies of all the PowerPoint's to refer to in case I don't recall something. This course is well worth the financial and time investment."

If you’d like to find out more about my mentoring programs, or to chat about the Summer 2015 program that’ll kick off on the 22nd of June, please feel free to drop me a note or to give me a call – you can find all my contact information right here.

Snoring In Children Is Making The Mainstream News

Mainstream medicine and dentistry have not always made the link between snoring in children and the harm it can cause, which means that many parents and practitioners have never made the connection either.

As a myofunctional therapist, snoring is one of the first things I screen for in all of my patients - both kids and adults. My job is to look at the airway and find out why my patients breathe through their mouth, or have a tongue thrust or tongue-tie, and to investigate other underlying health issues related to breathing. Snoring in particular, can be an indicator of deeper, more involved airway problems, and the symptoms of airway problems are exactly what I treat.

Research shows that snoring and sleep apnea in children can lead to impaired concentration, poor memory, and difficulty focusing and learning at school. So sleep problems in children are very serious.

As a practicing myofunctional therapist and trainer, I was thrilled to see this subject covered in a current affairs segment on Australia’s high-profile 7 News Network. The program on sleep apnea in young children was called Sleepless Nights. It’s thought provoking stuff for any parent, and for us as hygienists, or for those of you with an interest in myofunctional therapy. 

To watch the video, click the image below.

The lead-in to the segment on the broadcaster’s website has this to say on the topic:

“If your child snores, no matter how quietly, you may have a big problem on your hands. What most parents don’t know is that while they are sleeping, their snoring children could be suffering long-term damage.

More than half of Australian children suffer from a sleeping disorder, and the effects can last a lifetime. Experts know that a lack of sleep leads to reduced IQ, developmental issues and can even stunt a child’s growth.”

I’m happy to see other countries recognizing this problem because it definitely happens in the USA too. I see signs and symptoms related to sleep apnea in my practice all the time, and unfortunately I’m often the first healthcare provider to notice them.

If parents aren't aware of obvious loud snoring, another key thing us hygienists can tell them to watch for in their children is an open mouth. An open mouth during the day can be one of the first signs of trouble with sleep and breathing at night. It’s for this reason that I always recommend that parents and healthcare providers treat an open mouth as soon as they see the signs of it in children. Myofunctional therapy is one of the best ways to address airway issues such as snoring and other related symptoms, and this is covered in detail in my Introductory Mentoring Program.