Local dentist promoting innovative treatment for ADD, ADHD



Friday was supposed to be Dr. Martin Denbar’s day off from work.

While he didn’t see any patients, Denbar, a Liberty Hill resident, was busy at his office, smoothing out some of the details while he transitions to a process he said is going to fill a growing need in Central Texas.

It’s called Myofunctional Therapy and research shows that it can help treat Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder without the use of drugs.

“It’s been around for a while. The United States is just behind in this field,” Denbar said. “You look at the studies and you can see, there are no drawbacks. There are so many kids that suffer from ADD or ADHD and we can help them.”

Myofunctional Therapy is an exercise program for the muscles of the face and tongue. Through these exercises, patients’ muscles are re-trained to properly execute functions as the body intended – allowing for normal breathing, tongue position, chewing and facial posture.

While Myofunctional Therapy has been confused with speech therapy in the past, that is not the case now.

A Myofunctional Therapist will work with patients, both children and adults, on simple, yet specific, exercises that will bring back the normal muscle tone that is missing in the face and tongue. This allows for normal nasal breathing and correct tongue position.

With that in mind, it makes sense that the therapy has been used around the world to treat numerous ailments, including orthodontic relapse, mouth breathing, long face syndrome, and sleep-disorder breathing, amongst others.

But how does that treat ADD and ADHD?

Frankly, Denbar said, they are connected.

The most simple answer is it establishes nasal breathing as opposed to mouth breathing and creates a lip seal. This way a person does not breathe through the mouth. Denbar said proper tongue position is essential for this to happen.

In a 2012 study published in Pediatrics, it was found that children with sleep-disorder breathing were 40 to 100 percent more likely to develop neurobehavioral problems, the biggest increase being in hyperactivity.

That study followed 11,000 children over the course of a six-year period, drawing conclusive evidence that sleep and breathing issues – particularly snoring and mouth breathing – can lead directly to ADD and ADHD.

This can be treated through Myofunctional Therapy. It just hasn’t picked up the following it has in the other countries yet, Denbar said.

In Brazil more than 20 universities have PhD programs and ongoing graduate level research in the field. It has similar traction in Europe, where researchers have helped establish that the therapy can be used to fix ADD and ADHD. Denbar said the medical field has known about Myofunctional Therapy for some time, but it has been slowly introduced in the United States.

“You look around the world, they’re doing it in other places and it’s working,” he said. “How come we haven’t done more here? This is something that has so many benefits, and takes a relative short time if you’re looking at the time frame of better health for life.”

Patients at Austin Myofunctional Therapy will typically spend a year working with the therapists. Denbar said a typical treatment schedule will include 15-20 visits, while frequent at-home exercises, with parental cooperation for children, are crucial to success.

He said in some cases cooperation with a dentist, orthodontist or speech therapist are necessary, but that’s looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Denbar, an Austin dentist with more than 20 years of experience in dental sleep medicine, he has been a leader in the field of oral appliance therapy and developed a sleep shirt to treat positional sleep problems.

He is presently a guest lecturer for Texas State University’s Graduate Polysomnography Program, and will be instructing medical students at Texas A&M School of Medicine on the use of oral appliance therapy.

At Austin Myofunctional Therapy, Denbar has hired myotherapists, Stephanie Jasuta, PhD. CCC-SLP and Jill Savolt, RDH, who will be performing the therapy and they will not be limited to serving central Texas.

Savolt is developing a telemedicine division for the practice, which will then be used to treat patients all over the United States.

“We’ll have a set up where we can send out the materials. Then, through an approved video system, she can go over the lessons and treat a patient on the computer,” Denbar said.

“We don’t have to be confined to in-office work. Whether it’s someone in Austin or around the country, we can help them from their own home.”

Learn more about Austin Myofunctional Therapy at www.austinmyofunctionaltherapy.com.