What Are Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders and How Are They Treated?

What Are Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders and How Are They Treated?

Dec 01, 2022

Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMDs) are disorders that affect the muscles of the face, mouth, tongue, and throat. OMDs can also affect the normal development and growth of facial muscles and bones. Someone with OMDs can find it difficult to use the orofacial muscles to perform activities like swallowing, talking, and breathing.

Pushing out of tongue by some children when they talk, eat or drink, called tongue thrusting, is also a type of OMD. Myofunctional therapy for tongue thrust can help such children.

Let’s take a closer look at what OMDs are, their symptoms, and how myofunctional therapy can help correct these disorders.

What Are Causes And Symptoms of OMDs?

While there are several causes of developing OMDs, some reasons are more prevalent than others, including-

  • Obstruction of the upper airway: Someone with conditions like a deviated septum or expanded tonsils can have problems with airflow through the nasal cavity. Such a situation forces the jaw to shift to an improper position leading to mouth breathing and other OMDs.

  • Delayed neuromotor development: Another reason for developing OMDs is abnormalities in the orofacial muscles, which can cause delayed growth of the cheekbones and the jaw.

  • Habitual thumb-sucking: Habitual thumb-sucking can cause misalignment of teeth in children leading to the development of OMDs.
    In most cases, OMDs start early in life, and you can detect the symptoms in babies. However, if you don’t catch the symptoms early in life, you can treat the abnormalities with orofacial myofunctional therapy.

Some of the early symptoms of OMDs include:

  • Difficulty in breathing through the nose or mouth breathing

  • Bruxism or grinding of the teeth

  • Development of overbite, underbite, or other orthodontic issues

  • The tongue of people with OMDs is pushed past the teeth even when they are not talking or eating

  • Speech disorders such as difficulty in enunciating certain sounds such as “s“ in the sun” or “sh” in “ship.”

  • Difficulty in closing the lips making it difficult to swallow

  • Excessive drooling beyond the age of two

Who Can Help Diagnose OMDs?

If you suspect that you or your child has OMDs, you can seek help from any one of the following professionals:

  • Dentist

  • Orthodontist

  • Doctor

  • Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP)

When you bring your child for an examination, the dentist will look at your child’s teeth and how the jaw moves when they perform certain activities like speaking and swallowing.

Myofunctional Therapy Can Help treat OMDs

Myofunctional therapy is an exercise-based muscle training program that aims to improve mouth and face muscle function. The exercises prescribed in this therapy help the bad muscles function properly.

Myofunctional therapy has recently gained popularity as an effective treatment of various OMDs in adults and children.

The therapy involves treating the soft tissue and muscles of the face, neck, and mouth to help put the tongue in a natural position. Myofunctional treatment is designed based on the patient’s age and the severity of the condition. Rather than managing the symptoms, the therapy targets correcting the root cause of OMDs.

The four major goals of myofunctional therapy include:

  • Help the patient breathe normally through the nose

  • Help the patient keep their lips closed when not speaking, eating, or drinking

  • Helping the tongue get back to the normal position, that is, resting on the roof of the mouth

  • Ensuring the patient has a proper swallowing pattern

Much research has been conducted to test the effectiveness of myofunctional therapy in treating OMDs. Research shows that the treatment has the best outcome for speech disorders and sleep apnea. A 2021 review of several studies found that myofunctional treatment has a strong positive impact on improving the sleep pattern of people with obstructive sleep apnea.

To conclude

OMDs can cause a variety of health issues if not corrected. Myofunctional therapy can help fix the problem by strengthening and repairing the alignment of muscles in your mouth, face, and neck.

Here at Rifle Dental Care, we understand that every case of OMD is different, requiring therapy tailormade for each patient. In some cases, our orofacial myofunctional therapist might recommend other approaches to correct damages caused by OMDs.

Contact us today to arrange a consultation to determine if you can benefit from myofunctional therapy.

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