What is Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder (OMD)?

The international Academy of Orofacial Myology (IAOM) defines OMD’s as “behaviors and patterns created by inappropriate muscle function and incorrect habits involving the tongue, lips jaw and face… an incorrect positioning may contribute to improper orofacial development and maintenance of the misalignment of teeth.”

Why should I be concerned about Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder?

OMDs can affect many areas of overall health.

  • Improper tongue and lip rest posture is the leading reason individuals need orthodontic treatment, as well as the cause for orthodontic relapse.
  • Open mouth rest posture of the lips may be due to upper respiratory problems such as enlarged tonsils, adenoids, or chronic allergies.
  • Tongue-ties will restrict tongue elevation and range of motion which can ultimately affect feeding, eating, production of speech, or occlusion, as well as tongue rest posture.

Signs and complications associated with Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders

  • Thumb/finger/tongue sucking
  • Breathing problems due to upper airway obstruction from tonsils and/or adenoids
  • Forward rest posture of the tongue
  • Open mouth posture of the lips
  • Weak lip muscles
  • Difficulty chewing, gathering, and swallowing solid foods
  • Malocclusion
  • Orthodontic relapse
  • Speech disorders
  • Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia)
  • High arched/narrow palate (associated with sucking habit)

Thumb and finger sucking habits

The American Dental Association finds that around the age of six, finger and/or thumb sucking habits should be broken. If they are not complications can arise including:

  • Malocclusion
  • A high, narrow palate due to pressure of the thumb against the roof of the mouth
  • Sucking habits will anchor the tongue in a down and forward rest posture
  • Abnormal tongue and swallowing patterns
  • Altered respiratory patterns
  • Altered normal facial growth patterns

Individuals who specialize in Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy are trained to successfully treat digit sucking through a positive approach of behavior modification.

Who is concerned about Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders and why?

Dentists are concerned about habits that can contribute to improper growth processes of the jaw and teeth. If OMDs are identified and corrected, normal processes can proceed. Dentists are also concerned about sucking habits that continue after the age of 6, resulting in the dental arches and hard palate becoming negatively affected.

Orthodontists focus on how the teeth occlude together between arches. Abnormal rest posture of the tongue, lip, and cheek can lead to malocclusion and orthodontic relapse after care is completed.

Speech Pathologists are involved in the concern of OMDs when they are in conjunction with a speech disorder. OMDs may inhibit individuals from transitioning sounds into conversational speech.

Pediatricians become concerned when allergies are present and/or upper respiratory conditions such as enlarged tonsils and adenoids are contributing to the development of an OMD. Specialists such as Allergists and Ear/Nose/Throat doctors are involved in providing treatment.