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Resources for Feeding, Eating, Drinking, Speech, and Mouth/Airway Function


Hot Topic Blog - Oral/Pharyngeal Sensory-Motor, Orofacial Myofunctional, & Airway Information


By Dr. Catherine Murphy, Orthodontist in Griffith, Indiana, USA

October 2019


I grew up in the field of orthodontics. Although my father, also an orthodontist, introduced me to the importance of how a patient’s improper swallowing and breathing affected the bite, there were no subsequent treatment options other than ENT (ear, nose, and throat) evaluation and treatment if deemed necessary.

These issues were becoming the norm in my practice, rather than the rare cases. In my search for answers, I attended an intensive introductory course on Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy. When my son was born, he had some health challenges, and my pas

sion to understand these issues grew even more. My journey to find answers for my child led me to design my practice differently than most orthodontists.


My Practice


My practice, In Harmony Orthodontics, is based on correcting the bad bite by addressing the underlying cause in addition to straightening the smile. I offer holistic, integrative, and interceptive orthodontic services which also focus on the airway.


In Harmony Orthodontics specializes in caring for children who need treatment for irregularities with their teeth, but my scope has grown beyond traditional orthodontics. I help children achieve harmony with the jaws, tongue, posture, and overall wellbeing.


My philosophy is to treat the whole child and deliver the individual solution that is a perfect fit for each child. My goal is for kids to have optimum chewing, breathing, and speaking capacities, along with straighter teeth.


Teeth Tell a Story


I talk to my patients about how their teeth are trying to tell me a story. I look to their teeth to explain what underlying concerns there may be. For instance, if a child has a vaulted or high-arched palate, that is a sign that the tongue isn’t in the correct rest posture/position. This can cause nasal breathing issues and sleep difficulties. It also means speech problems may develop. Once I understand what is going on with the whole child, I can provide an individualized treatment plan designed specifically for the child’s success. 


Evaluating Infants


In addition to working with children, I will help moms who know their babies have a problem. This is often related to feeding and sleeping, but the mom isn’t sure exactly what is causing it or what to do about it. There is a lot of information out there, but it is not always backed up with a true knowledge.


I evaluate babies for tongue, lip and/or buccal ties. I explain the possible long term effects on growth and development if functional restrictions remain. Then, I refer the mom to appropriate health care providers. Common symptoms of a tongue or lip tie include difficulty with breastfeeding, including poor latch, gassiness, reflux or colic, and/or a clicking sound when breastfeeding.


Helping new mothers understand these conditions and solving these problems brings relief to the mother and better overall health for the baby. It also provides the reassurance many moms need to know their efforts are worthwhile and there are options to pursue. 


Common is Not Normal


Sleeping, breathing, and tongue resting posture are important factors to consider, especially if the child snores or is having difficulties in other areas. Just because snoring is common does not mean it is normal. There are airway issues that can be addressed for overall better health.


In my practice, I do more than provide braces. I collaborate with the child’s family dentist, pediatrician, speech-language pathologist, and other healthcare professionals to understand all of the dynamics impacting a child's health. Together, we design the very best plan to straighten the child’s smile and improve the child’s overall path to success and good health.


Additional Resources


Finding Connor Deegan: A powerful story of a troubled child whose life was improved by addressing airway issues:


Shut Your Mouth and Change Your Life: TEDx Talk by Patrick McKeown



About the Author


Dr. Catherine Murphy is certified by the American Board of Orthodontics. She is a graduate of Indiana University Bloomington and Indiana University School of Dentistry. Dr. Murphy is a member of the American Association of Orthodontists, the American Dental Association, and the Northwest Indiana Dental Society. She is passionate about helping children achieve harmony with the jaws, tongue, posture, and overall wellbeing while addressing the underlying causes and focusing on the airway.


Dr. Murphy practices in Griffith, Indiana, USA and resides nearby with her husband and son. She is expecting a new baby in November.