Myofunctional page art for Pediatric Dentist Dr. Aleighia Helderman in Morristown, TN
950 West First North St.
Morristown, TN 37814
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423-581-1877

Oral Myofunctional Disorder

What is Oral Myofunctional Disorder?

The human body is a complex creature, and to keep it working at its best the body needs to maintain its balance. When we are out of balance, problems can occur. Oral Myofunctional Disorder is what happens when this relationship doesn’t work properly, and we use Myofunctional Therapy to correct it!

Tongue Posture

Tongue posture and position is very important in the way we function and look. What is the correct position of the tongue? At rest, the proper oral posture means that the tongue is to the roof of the mouth, the teeth are touching or slightly apart, and the lips are together without strain.

Proper swallowing depends on an ideal relationship between muscles of the face, tongue and throat and changes. At birth, babies use reverse swallow as a way to protect their airways. By the age of five, most children develop more efficient pattern where 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 as a wedge, which allows other muscles involved in swallowing to function normally. The hard palate, meanwhile, absorbs the force created by the tongue. However, if the child continues to use the reverse swallow method, it is possible to receive an OMD diagnosis.

Because a person swallows up to 2,000 times a day, and the tongue can place anywhere between one and 6 pounds of pressure on oral structures, it’s easy to see how improper swallowing can cause a variety of problems.

What causes improper swallowing?

Several factors can contribute to improper swallowing such as:

What are the signs of OMD?

Tongue Thrusting

When a person swallows incorrectly, the tip and/or sides of the tongue press against or spread between the teeth. This is commonly called tongue thrust. Constant pressure (or thrusting) of the tongue away from the hard palate pushes teeth out of place. That pressure may later prevent teeth from erupting (breaking through the gum). Tongue thrust can also lead to an abnormal bite — the improper alignment between the upper and lower teeth known as a malocclusion. This problem can lead to difficulties in biting, chewing and digesting food.

Cosmetic Problems

Often the most obvious symptom of incorrect swallowing involves the muscles of the face. A dull, sluggish appearance and full, weak lips develop when muscles aren't operating normally. Constantly parted lips (or mouth breathing) also signal this disorder. A person swallowing incorrectly will often purse and tighten the muscles of the cheeks, chin and lips — a symptom known as a facial grimace. This can give the chin a knobby appearance, known as a chin button.


Speech Problems

A person with abnormal swallowing symptoms may suffer a lisp or have difficulty articulating sounds. If muscles in the tongue and lips are imbalanced, that can prevent a person from forming sounds of normal speech.

Who can fix it?

Three types of professionals are trained and qualified as myofuntional therapist/ orofacial mycologist. Dental hygienists, speech pathologists, and/or physical therapists are most often associated with orofacial therapy. We are fortunate enough to have a trained therapist here in our office and can put a plan in place to get your child on the right track!

It is important to know that orthodontics treatment often accompanies orofacial therapy. If incorrect swallowing or tongue thrust have created a malocclusion, learning proper swallowing techniques may prevent further damage. Careful diagnosis and special orthodontic appliances or braces will be needed to reposition dental problems that have already occurred.

Orofacial therapy has provided a dramatic and positive influence on patients treated. With orofacial therapy, a patient can regain the joy of eating and speaking, and enjoy cosmetic improvements that help restore confidence and self-esteem. Those kinds of results make therapy that’s easy to swallow!

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