What Causes an Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder?
All babies are born with a low forward swallowing pattern (tongue thrust). With normal growth and development, the tongue begins to lift up into and against the palate (roof of the mouth). This pressure against the palate helps the palate develop into the correct shape. Anything that adversely influences normal development of the dental arches or position of the teeth can result in an OMD. Oral and facial muscles must adapt to the oral structures to maintain a normal functional relationship.
Oral habits — prolonged thumb or finger sucking, cheek/nail biting, tooth clenching.Restricted nasal airway — enlarged tonsils/adenoids, allergies/asthma, sinusitis or a restricted flow of air through the nasal cavity can promote a habitual open-lip posture.Structural or physiological abnormalities — a short lingual frenum (tongue-tie), macroglossia (abnormally large tongue) or micrognathia (abnormally small jaw).Neurological or developmental abnormalities — Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy or other neurological problems that limit the patient’s ability to achieve the necessary muscle function for corre
Hereditary predisposition to some of the above factors.
Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMD) may be caused by one or several of the above reasons. A qualified therapist is able to evaluate your child and determine if he/she is a candidate for therapy.
How Prevalent Are Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders?
Research examining various populations found 38% have orofacial myofunctional disorders and, as mentioned above, an incidence of 81% has been found in children exhibiting speech/articulation problems.
What is Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy?
Therapy involves an individualized regimen of exercises to re-pattern oral and facial muscles. Exercises are used to correct tongue and lip resting postures as well as to develop correct chewing and swallowing patterns. Certified Orofacial Myologists (COM) are trained to help patients eliminate harmful habits by using positive behavioral techniques. They provide motivational therapy to eliminate such oral habits as: prolonged pacifier use, thumb and/or finger sucking, fingernail biting, cheek or lip biting, tongue sucking and clenching or grinding of the teeth.
Who Should Treat?
Orofacial Myologists who are certified by the International Association of Orofacial Myology (IAOM) have the appropriate training to provide treatment. The IAOM is the only international professional accrediting organization of this therapeutic specialty. Those members who have had additional training and successfully pass a written and clinical proficiency examination, earn the credential of Certified Orofacial Myologist (COM).
The IAOM, founded in 1972, is a non-profit organization that provides continuing education and approves additional training programs for professionals including speech pathologists, dentists, dental hygienists, and other allied health professionals who wish to evaluate and/or provide orofacial myofunctional therapy.
At What Age Can Therapy Begin?
Children as young as four years old can benefit from an in-office evaluation. They can be seen for an assessment to determine if there are causative factors that require prevention or early intervention. Children seven or eight years of age are often good candidates to receive orofacial myofunctional therapy. They are most often anxious to please adults and usually work well with the therapist. Motivated teenagers and adults of all ages are capable of success in treatment.
Age five is an ideal age to begin a modified program of treatment to help children discontinue thumb or finger sucking habits when intellectual and emotional skills are adequately developed. With early elimination of these habits, there is often spontaneous improvement in dental, speech and OMD problems. Children of seven or eight years of age are often mature enough to receive complete training in Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy.
Before starting orofacial myofunctional therapy, the therapist will evaluate the child’s potential for success and will consider:
1. The physical ability of the patient (can the patient do the exercises?)
2. Necessity for referral (should the patient be seen by an orthodontist, an Ear-Nose-Throat doctor or other specialists before starting orofacial myofunctional therapy? And
3. The physical and emotional maturity of the patient.
Before and After Thumb-sucking Therapy
View of mouth of child with a thumb sucking habit
Mouth after eliminating
How Effective is Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy?
There are many factors that contribute to the success of the therapy program. It is truly a team effort. Effective communication and cooperation between therapist and the dental and medical community is essential. In addition, successful orofacial myofunctional therapy depends on the patient's desire, dedicated cooperation and self-discipline to follow-through with therapy assignments and support from others. To ensure optimum results for children undergoing therapy, parental involvement and encouragement is important and necessary.
Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy has helped literally thousands of individuals, in dozens of countries, for over 30 years. Numerous studies have demonstrated its effectiveness including a study done by Hahn & Hahn (1992), which revealed that treatment for orofacial myofunctional disorders can be 80-90% effective in correcting rest posture, swallowing and other oral functions and that these corrections are retained years after completing therapy.