Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy

Orofacial myology is a sub-specialty within the scope of practice for trained speech-language pathologists. The focus is identification and treatment of orofacial myofunctional disorders, or OMDs, and habits that may increase occurrence of abnormal dental development, malocclusions, and facial development.

 

OMDs are often characterized by or contributed by the following: tongue thrusting (which typically places abnormal pressure against teeth, causing malocclusion), mouth breathing patterns, teeth clenching or grinding, difficulty swallowing foods/liquids, speech placement errors, nail biting, thumb sucking, tongue/lip/buccal ties, TMJ pain,  as well as sleep apnea or snoring. Orofacial myofunctional disorders can impact quality of life and should be treated by professionals trained in orofacial myofunctional therapy. Anyone can have an OMD, including children (5+) and adults, and the OMD symptoms may range from mild to severe. OMDs may not be present as a child, but develop as a person ages. Treatment is important to lessen or eliminate dental implications (tooth decay, malocclusions, ortho relapse), airway issues (sleep apnea, upper airway resistance), speech placement and production errors and abnormal respiration patterns.

 

Signs and Symptoms of Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders include but are not limited to:

  • Mouth breathing (day and night)

  • Tongue thrust or low, forward tongue placement (often pushing/resting against dentition)

  • Difficulty breast or bottle feeding for infants (leaking milk, gassy, fussy, ‘colicky’, inability to flange lips) in early development can lead to OMDs as a child develops

  • Messy or picky eating; particularly avoiding unprocessed cooked meat, raw fruits, and vegetables

  • Noxious oral habits such as nail biting or thumb sucking

  • Increased number of ear infections or respiratory illnesses (i.e. colds, pneumonia, etc)

  • Dental malocclusions (“overbite” “under bite” “cross bite”)

  • Teeth grinding or clenching when awake or sleeping

  • Increased number of cavities, especially in young children

  • Difficulty with speech sounds that require elevation and retraction of the tongue

  • Excessive drooling at any age; all drooling should be eliminated by 2 years of age

  • Lack of lip closure

  • TMJ dysfunction including popping or pain

  • Facial asymmetries

  • Sleep apnea, upper airway resistance syndrome, and poor sleep cycles (may include frequent night urination or bed wetting)

 

Possible Contributing Factors of OMDs:

  • Food and seasonal allergies

  • Respiratory issues (i.e. asthma or increased number of colds/respiratory illnesses)

  • Tongue or lip tissue restrictions (TOTs-tethered oral tissues)

  • Acid reflex or GERD

  • Premature birth

  • Muscle weakness

  • Craniofacial differences

 

On Spot Therapy provides assessments that determine if the current level of orofacial functions and structure are impacting feeding, swallowing, speech, and respiration. It is important to receive therapy if there are impacts on these areas to improve quality of life. Incorrect orofacial functioning can begin in utero and last a lifetime if left untreated.

 

Our therapy approach identifies and focuses on helping all ages, infants to adults, normalize and improve their oral facial strength, stability and range of motion, speech placement/productions, respiration patterns, normalize chewing and swallowing patterns through various treatment techniques specific for each individual. Our goal is to habituate correct oral rest postures, chewing and swallow patterns, and dominantly use nasal respiration.

Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy is recommended for ages 5 years and older. If a child is younger than 5 years old, they will still participate in therapeutic techniques to target normalization of oral function, the therapeutic treatment will be tailored to their age and needs.