What are orofacial myofunctional disorders?

  • Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMDs) occur when a child’s jaw, mouth and neck muscles are functioning incorrectly. There are many factors that can cause an OMD, but some of the common symptoms include:
  • “Tongue thrust” – when a child’s tongue moves forward in an exaggerated way during speech, swallowing and at rest.
  • Speech difficulties such as a lisp
  • A laboured, “forced” swallowing pattern
  • An imbalanced looking face
  • Improper teeth positioning

What causes an OMD?

OMDs can arise as a result of a number of factors. The most common is mouth breathing. The tongue cannot rest in the correct position (on the roof of the mouth) if someone needs to mouth breathe. They will have an open mouth posture associated with mouth breathing. Another common cause is thumb-sucking. The presence of the thumb in the mouth creates an abnormal force on the muscles of the jaw, leading to inadequate growth and development. OMDs can also be caused through bad chewing and swallowing habits, or may simply be hereditary.

How is an OMD diagnosed?

OMDs are typically diagnosed by an orofacial myologist however can be recognised by a child’s doctor, dentist or orthodontist. These professionals will notice abnormalities in speech and swallowing patterns of the child, which can be common signs of an OMD.

How are OMDs treated?

The orofacial region is intricate and complex, and is a vital cog in many of the body’s primary systems including those that control breathing, eating and speech. As such, OMDs often require treatment from an orofacial myologist. Orofacial Myology is treatment that aims to correct muscle function and tone to restore correct functional activies. Generally speaking this involves:

  • Improving muscle strength and coordination
  • Improving speech sound productions
  • Improving swallowing patterns

Orofacial myology targets the fundamental causes of OMDs. While dentists and orthodontists will treat the symptoms of an OMD (such as crowded mouths or crooked teeth), orofacial myology adopts a holistic approach to developing harmonious and optimal functionality of the muscles of the face, neck and jaw.

What should you do?

If you believe your child has an OMD, it is important to seek treatment early. An initial consultation with an orofacial myologist will generally assess any OMD’s and advised the best possible treatment. The orofacial myologist will evaluate the child’s history and background, and explore any potential causes of the OMD that can be addressed. The next step is to formulate a treatment plan to allow improvements over time. With the right treatment, your child will be on the way to a happier, healthier smile.


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