What is an Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder?
An orofacial myofunctional disorder describes any irregularities in the form and function of the muscles or the face and mouth. This may also include dental or skeletal structures that could affect normal growth and development. OMDs can occur through the lifespan, and may present differently in different age groups. For the younger child, oral habits and/or difficulty with feeding or chewing may be seen. In children, adolescents, and adults symptoms may include:
- mouth breathing
- tongue thrust swallow
- improper jaw growth or malocclusion
- sleep disordered breathing/apnea
- impaired speech production
Should I be concerned About an OMD?
The constant, improperly placed pressure of the muscles of the face and tongue can have a lasting effect. They can cause significant problems with a person's dental health, speech, and cosmetic appearance. Misalignment of the teeth (malocclusion) can also cause patients to become more susceptible to periodontal disease or “gum disease.” Malocclusion also can cause “jaw joint” problems, facial pain, difficulty biting or chewing food, and excessive grinding of the teeth (bruxing).
OMDs can have a significant negative effect on successful retention of orthodontic treatment threatening the beautiful smile you and your orthodontist have work hard to achieve.
Why Does An OMD Happen?
Usually there is not one cause of an OMD, rather several contributing factors may be involved. Some of these may include prolonged oral habits (thumb, finger, pacifier use), airway obstruction either from enlarged tonsils/ adenoids or nasal cavity, allergies, structural abnormalities such as tied oral tethers ("TOT's" including a short lingual or labial frenulum) or a narrow, high palate.
What Can I Do About an OMD?
Myofunctional therapy is painless and relatively simple to do. For successful results, exercises must be done consistently every day until the patient has corrected their abnormal muscle pattern. It also takes a commitment by the patient, their family and their time.
I will assist you to re-train the muscles of your face and tongue for proper posture at rest and during swallowing working to eliminate the long term problems associated with an OMD.
Why Can't My Child's Tongue Thrust Be Treated at School?
Parents often ask: “Why can’t my child’s tongue thrust be treated at school?” When parents discover that a tongue thrust is often treated by a Speech/Language Pathologist (SLP) they assume that the speech therapist at their child’s school has been trained to do therapy with tongue thrust just as they were trained to treat other speech problems. Unfortunately, this is not true.
Most school districts wisely do not allow their therapists to treat orofacial myofunctional disorders in their schools because they understand that it is primarily a medical, not an educational, disorder. While a tongue thrust is frequently associated with an articulation disorder, your orthodontic professional has referred you to an Orofacial Myologist because your child has a medical problem that can adversely effect his/her dental health, retention of orthodontic treatment results and possibly craniofacial development.