Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy is the treatment of Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMD). The prefix “myo” means muscle. Orofacial myofunctional disorders involve a variety of postural and functional disorders including sucking habits and inappropriate oral postures or functions of the muscles of the tongue, lips, jaw, and face. A common disorder familiar to the public is “tongue thrust”, where the tongue rests against or between the front or side teeth during swallowing rather than lifting up into the palate (roof of the mouth). Tongue thrusting frequently occurs with a low, forward resting posture of the tongue, with a lips apart posture. Just as the controlled continuous forces of orthodontic appliances (braces) can move teeth, abnormal postures and functions in the oral cavity can contribute to the development of dental malocclusions such as incorrectly positioned teeth, an improper bite relationship or other problems related to oral or facial muscle dysfunction or a malformation of the bones of the dental arches.
Why Be Concerned?
Orthodontists have been concerned about OMD since the early 1900’s because the abnormal functions and postures of OMD can: negatively influence dental growth, slow orthodontic treatment and it may undermine the stability of an orthodontic correction, resulting in a relapse.
Habitual open-lip resting posture (lip incompetence), commonly found among individuals with OMD, eliminates the beneficial influence that closed lips have on the development and maintenance of good dental arch form.
The presence of OMD may have a negative effect on the development of the dentition, particularly the eruption patterns and/or alignment of the teeth and jaws.
Research has revealed that of those individuals who exhibit OMD 81% have speech problems. The /s/ sound is the most noticed speech error; others are /z/, /sh/, /ch/, /j/, /d/, /t/, /n/, /l/ and /r/. When there is a combination of OMD and related speech errors, it is often difficult to correct the speech problems through traditional speech therapy. Children or even adults with incorrect chewing and swallowing patterns frequently chew their food with their lips open, usually taking large bites and swallowing without completely chewing the food. This behavior often leads to food particles around the mouth, noisy chewing and swallowing (smacking and gulping) and a messy eating area. It can also cause an upset stomach from swallowing too much air.