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What are Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders?

In order to fully understand what Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy “does,” one must first be familiar with the signs and symptoms of OMDs. Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders involve behaviors and patterns created by inappropriate muscle function and incorrect habits involving the tongue, lips, jaw and face. Individuals that are observed with OMDs will usually exhibit a combination of these signs and symptoms:

Signs and Symptoms

  • Open-mouth breathing? Not due to allergies or nasal congestion?
  • Tongue protruding between or against the upper and/or lower front teeth? Tongue Thrust? Low forward tongue (rest) posture?
  • Misalignment of teeth caused by prolonged sucking habits such as thumbs, fingers, pacifiers, lips, nail biting, etc.?
  • Late or abnormal eruption of teeth?
  • Tongue is visually forward during eating, drinking or at rest?
  • Tongue is visible during speech? Lisping? Poor tongue placement?
  • Difficult for tongue to rest in palate or reach back teeth when mouth is open? Short lingual frenum? Tongue-tie? (Ankyloglossia)
  • Obvious tightening of lips and/or facial tension when swallowing? Facial smirk, grimace?
  • Prolonged wearing time of orthodontic appliances? Interference with long term stability of teeth after orthodontic treatment?
  • Messy chewing, lip moustache, frequent crumbs, drooling? Constant dry or chapped lips? Habitual open mouth posture?
  • Lowered self-esteem due to negative cosmetic and aesthetic appearance?
  • Poor digestion due to improper swallowing? Bloating? Burping? Hiccups?
  • Increased incidence of chronic sore throats, enlarged tonsils, or upper respiratory problems due to habitual mouth-breathing?

Over time, these abnormal habit patterns and postures can lead to the disruption of dental development. Dental malocclusion, late or abnormal eruption of teeth, cosmetic problems, changes in jaw growth and position are observed in patients with OMDs. (Mason; Feb 2009)

Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMDs) Include:

  • Thumb, finger, pacifier, lip, and other sucking habits.
  • An open mouth - lips apart posture.
  • Tongue lying forward between or against teeth at rest.
  • A forward tongue rest position against the upper anterior teeth.
  • A lateral and/or posterior interdental tongue rest posture.
  • Thrusting of the tongue during swallowing and speech.
  • A disruption of the normal resting dental freeway space.
    Slight increase (Open bite) or decrease (Clenching / Bruxism)

What Causes Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders?

It is often difficult to identify a single cause for an orofacial myofunctional disorder. Most disorders involve a combination of factors that may include:

  • An airway restriction from enlarged tonsils or adenoids, allergies or anatomical deviation involving the nasal cavity or pharynx.
  • Improper oral habits such as thumb or finger sucking, cheek or nail biting, teeth clenching or grinding.
  • Neurological and sensori-neural developmental delays or abnormalities.
  • Structural or physiological abnormalities such as short lingual frenum (tongue-tie).
  • Hereditary predisposing to any of the above factors.



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