Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy
What is Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (OMT)?
Orofacial myofunctional therapy is a program used to correct the proper function of the tongue and facial muscles used at rest and for swallowing.
Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMDs) are disorders of the muscles and functions of the face and mouth. OMDs may affect, directly and/or indirectly, breastfeeding, facial skeletal growth and development, chewing, swallowing, speech, occlusion, temporomandibular joint movement, oral hygiene, stability of orthodontic treatment, facial esthetics, and more.
“Correct swallowing depends on a proper relationship between muscles of the face, mouth and throat.”
Correct swallowing depends on a proper relationship between muscles of the face, mouth and throat. The act of swallowing is one function that depends on the body’s vital balance. To swallow properly, muscles and nerves in the tongue, cheeks and throat must work together in harmony. When a person swallows normally, the tip of the tongue presses firmly against the roof of the mouth or hard palate, located slightly behind the front teeth. The tongue acts in concert with all the other muscles involved in swallowing. The hard palate, meanwhile, absorbs the force created by the tongue.
Because a person swallows 500-1000 times a day, improper swallowing can cause a variety of problems. But it is actually the resting position of the tongue that does the most damage because it is more constant.
Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders
If the tongue is not able to function normally because of a tongue-tie, the growth and development of the mouth and jaw is compromised. This may affect digestion, speech, breathing, dental occlusion, TMJ function, posture, sleep disordered breathing and chronic pain patterns of the head and neck.
Myofunctional therapists are trained to assess the tongue and develop normal tongue functions. If there is a restricted lingual frenum or “tongue-tie”, the myofunctional therapist will refer the patient to the proper doctor who will release the restriction and immediately follow the procedure with myofunctional therapy. The Myofunctional therapist will re-pattern the tongue muscles to assure maximum benefit from the procedure.
Anterior Tongue Thrust
When the nose is congested mouth breathing is imperative. However, often the habit of oral breathing is present even after the nasal breathing is restored. If the cause of the open mouth posture is not corrected, the patient may develop a forward head posture, atypical swallowing, a long face syndrome, and narrowing of the palate. After ruling out allergies, nasal obstruction and muscle low tone, OMT therapists will modify the behavior of the patient to promote a lip seal, including normalizing the breathing if the patient is a mouth breather.
Thumb Sucking, Nail Biting and other Noxious Habits
Habits such as pacifier and thumb sucking, nail biting, lip licking etc. may affect the tongues resting posture, chewing, lip health and facial muscles. If the habit continues abnormal growth and development may lead to orthodontic problems, TMD issues, dry and cracked lips, narrow palate, nail and finger infections etc. OMT treatment is used to help apply self awareness and behavior modification techniques to eliminate the habit and optimize oral functions.
Checklist for Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders
- Do you have an open mouth at rest posture or mouth breathe?
- Does your tongue rest against your teeth?
- Have your teeth moved after orthodontic treatment?
- Do you have headaches often?
- Does your jaw or neck hurt often?
- Do you chew your food with your mouth open?
- Are you a stomach or side sleeper?
- Do you have oral habits such as nail biting, pen chewing, lip licking or chewing, or thumb sucking?
- Do you have forward head posture?
- Do you have a lisp at times with saying the “s” sound?
- Do you feel that your tongue comes forward when you swallow?
- Do you drool or have bloating or stomach distress after eating?
- Do you have trouble falling asleep?
- Are you tired in the morning?
- Do you snore?
- Do you wake up repeatedly at night?
If you answered “yes” to 4 or more questions, you may need to see an Orofacial Myofunctional Therapist.