What is an Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder?

Orofacial myofunctional disorders affect the functions and muscles of the mouth and face. OMDs can occur in both children and adults if the adults have yet to receive treatment. Recognizing the symptoms can help children get treatment early on to prevent future problems from occuring.

OMD’s in children may cause breastfeeding issues. In adults and children, OMDs may also directly or indirectly affect speech, chewing, breastfeeding, breathing (airway), swallowing, facial development and growth, occlusion, facial esthetics, orthodontic treatment stability, oral hygiene, temporomandibular joint movement and more.
OMDs usually stem from incorrect tongue posture, swallowing habits or from mouth breathing. When these incorrect habits continue over time, they can lead to serious consequences. To treat an OMD and prevent future symptoms from developing, we recommend myofunctional therapy as treatment.

Dental Problems Related to an OMD

OMDs can cause a number of dental problems without early treatment. To start, incorrect swallowing habits cause the tongue to press between or against the teeth, known as tongue thrust. If the teeth experience constant pressure from a resting or thrusting tongue, it can eventually push the teeth out of place. The pressure can even prevent teeth from correctly erupting.

When the teeth become pushed out of place, it results in an abnormal bite. When the alignment between the lower and upper teeth is improper, it’s known as malocclusion. Malocclusion can cause difficulty chewing, biting, swallowing and even digesting food.
After treating the OMD, patients often need orthodontic treatment to correct the bite problems and tooth movement the OMD caused.

Cosmetic Problems Related to an OMD

Not only can OMDs cause a number of dental issues, but it can affect one’s facial appearance. This is a result of incorrect oral posture. People with an OMD often have a sluggish or dull appearance and full lips. If the OMD also includes mouth breathing, it’s likely the child will have constantly parted lips. You might also notice they purse and tighten the muscles in their lips, chin, and cheeks when swallowing – known as a facial grimace. The chin may look knobby because the facial muscles are overused.

Speech Problems Related to OMD

When a child has an OMD, they have abnormal oral muscle patterns that affect more than just their appearance or dental health. These abnormal muscle patterns also affect speech. Since the muscles in the tongue and lips have incorrect posture, it might be difficult to articulate certain sounds. Oftentimes patients who have an OMD also talk with a lisp. Speech patterns can continue into adulthood in patients without treatment. Improper muscle patterns can also lead to headaches, TMJ dysfunction, stomach distress, and airway obstruction.

Sleep Disordered Breathing and Obstructive Sleep Apnea Related to OMD

OMDs can also affect the growth and development of the airway, which causes some people to breathe only through their mouth. The mouth breathing symptom often goes hand in hand with obstructive sleep apnea since the airway doesn’t have proper development. This then causes patients to snore throughout the night and not experience a proper night of rest. Sleep apnea occurs when people stop breathing in their sleep because their airway becomes obstructed. Their body then alerts of the low oxygen to catch their breath. This process known as apneas repeats itself several hundred times throughout the night. The constant disruptions can result in constant fatigue, moodiness, trouble concentrating and heart conditions. With myofunctional therapy, patients can correct their abnormal airway and resolve sleep apnea symptoms for good.

Myofunctional Therapy

If our dentists determine you or your child has an OMD, we will recommend myofunctional therapy as soon as possible. Myofunctional therapy includes a series of painless tongue exercises that will retrain the muscles of the tongue, mouth and face correct habits to achieve the correct resting oral posture. This includes the lips, tongue, and jaw. Once we achieve a correct resting posture, problems related to OMD will begin to resolve themselves. Some patients may need additional treatments such as orthodontics to complete their treatment.

If you believe you or your child has an orofacial myofunctional disorder, please schedule an appointment at our Wichita Falls dental office as soon as possible. The earlier we can intervene and treat an OMD, the less damage, and problems that will occur.

Give our office a call at 940-322-2252 to book an appointment today.