What is an Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder?

An orofacial myofunctional disorder (OMD) occurs when abnormal patterns form when there’s an absence of normal patterns in the orofacial complex. Once these abnormal patterns develop, a variety of problems can result. This includes everything from dental issues, facial changes, and breathing problems, to temporomandibular disorders (TMD).

Orofacial myofunctional disorders usually include one or more of the following habits:

  • Thumb sucking
  • Tongue thrust
  • Lips apart when in a resting position
  • Tongue resting in a forward posture against or between the front teeth

These habits originate from:

  • Mouth breathing
  • Incorrect swallowing
  • Incorrect resting tongue position

Why is Correct Swallowing Important?

The muscles in your throat, mouth, and face require a proper relationship for correct swallowing to take place. The nerves and muscles in your cheeks, throat, and tongue must work together in perfect harmony to function correctly. Normally, the tongue will rest against the roof of the mouth or behind the front teeth on the hard palate during swallowing.

Since the average person swallows anywhere from 500 to 1,000 times per day, doing so improperly can lead to a wide variety of problems. The resting position of the tongue creates the most damage because its position is more constant.

Signs and Symptoms of OMDs in Children

If your child has an OMD that goes untreated, several problems will begin to develop.

OMD Symptoms in Young Children

  • Poor latch during bottle or breastfeeding
  • Difficulty nursing
  • Resting open mouth posture
  • Late speech development
  • Poor speech clarity
  • Difficulty eating solids
  • Tongue resting past the lower lip
  • Difficulty transitioning from a bottle to cup or straw

OMD Symptoms in School-Aged Children

  • Picky eating
  • Prolonged use of sippy-cups
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Sucking habits past 12 months of age (pacifier, thumb, finger)
  • Drooling past two years of age
  • Dental malocclusions
  • Difficulty enunciating certain sounds
  • Speaking with a lisp
  • Forward head posture
  • Facial pain

Signs and Symptoms of OMDs in Adults

When OMDs are not treated into adulthood, even more symptoms can develop.

  • Obstructive sleep apnea, snoring, or other airway obstruction problems
  • Mouth breathing
  • Malocclusion
  • Restricted tongue motion
  • Soft food preference
  • Facial grimace
  • TMJ disorders
  • Speech problems

Treatment for Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders

We evaluate each patient on a case by case basis and determine the best treatment plan for their specific symptoms. For instance, a child might have a much different treatment plan than an adult. In the end, we use orofacial myofunctional therapy to correct the proper function of the tongue and facial muscles used at rest and for swallowing. We encourage parents to recognize the symptoms as early as possible in children so we can provide them with the treatment they need before other symptoms develop.

Myofunctional Therapy

Myofunctional therapy is the treatment for orofacial myofunctional disorders. The purpose of the therapy is to correct abnormal oral posture habits.

The following occurs when proper oral rest posture is established

  • Tongue resting on the palate
  • Nasal breathing
  • Sealed lips

In addition to different mouth exercises, we may also include other procedures as part of your myofunctional therapy treatment.

Tongue Tie Procedure (Tethered Oral Tissue)

If the tongue is not able to function normally because of a tongue-tie (tethered oral tissue), the growth and development of the mouth and jaw is compromised. This may affect digestion, speech, breathing, dental occlusion, TMJ function, posture, sleep-disordered breathing and chronic pain patterns of the head and neck.

If there is a restricted lingual frenum or “tongue-tie”, we will use laser dentistry will release the restriction and immediately follow the procedure with myofunctional therapy. Myofunctional therapy will re-pattern the tongue muscles to assure maximum benefit from the procedure.

Orthodontics

Our dental practice offers a full range of orthodontic treatments including Invisalign to correct any misalignment issues an OMD may have caused. Following myofunctional therapy, we will correct malocclusions, reposition the jaw, and fix any spacing issues.

If you believe you or your child might have an orofacial myofunctional disorder, don’t hesitate to contact BKS Dental in Fort Atkinson for a consultation.  Please call (920) 563-7323 or contact us online today.