What is an Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder?
Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMDs) are disorders of the muscles and functions of the face and mouth. OMDs may affect, directly and/or indirectly, breastfeeding, facial skeletal growth and development, chewing, swallowing, speech, occlusion, temporomandibular joint movement, oral hygiene, stability of orthodontic treatment, facial esthetics, and more.
Most OMDs originate with insufficient habitual nasal breathing or with oral breathing. The subsequent adaptation of the muscles and the orofacial functions to a disordered breathing pattern creates many OMDs. Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders may impact treatments by orthodontists, dentists, dental hygienists, speech-language pathologists, and other professionals working in the orofacial area.
Correct swallowing depends on a proper relationship between muscles of the face, mouth and throat. The act of swallowing is one function that depends on the body’s vital balance. To swallow properly, muscles and nerves in the tongue, cheeks and throat must work together in harmony. When a person swallows normally, the tip of the tongue presses firmly against the roof of the mouth or hard palate, located slightly behind the front teeth. The tongue acts in concert with all the other muscles involved in swallowing. The hard palate, meanwhile, absorbs the force created by the tongue.
‘Because a person swallows 500-1000 times a day, it’s easy to see how improper swallowing can cause a variety of problems. But it is actually the resting position of the tongue that does the most damage because it is more constant.’
Symptoms of OMD
SYMPTOMS OF OMD can include but are not limited to the following…
- Thumb Sucking
- Mouth Breathing
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ-D)
- Tongue Thrust
- Sleep Disorder
- Cross Bite
- Speech Disorder
- Nail Biting
- Teeth Grinding
- Short Upper Lip/Open Mouth Posture
Most treatment programs are individualized and focus on tongue and facial resting postures, swallowing, and speech articulation.
Therapy is painless and the exercises are relatively simple. When certain muscles of the face are activated and functioning properly, other muscles will follow suit until proper coordination of the tongue and facial muscles is attained.
With myofunctional therapy, a patient can regain the joy of eating, speaking, breathing, and even sleeping more soundly. Cosmetic improvements can help restore confidence and self-esteem.