What Are Oral Myofunctional Disorders?
An oral myofunctional disorder (OMD) is a condition that affects how the facial and mouth muscles work together to allow a person to speak clearly, swallow correctly, breathe properly, and more.
Some examples of how an OMD may affect you include:
- Tongue thrust, a disorder in which the tongue rests too far forward in the mouth, can lead to orthodontic problems and improper swallowing. This condition is most common in children but can also affect adults.
- Mouth breathing can affect dry out your oral cavity and lead to an increased risk of cavities and other dental problems. The nose acts as our filtration system for our airway and increases the level of nitric oxide throughout our bodies increasing our circulation. When we mouth breathe, we remove the natural filter our bodies need.
- Problems with swallowing can make it difficult for you to enjoy meals. When our swallow function is affected, we are more prone to choking on our food and drinks. Improper swallowing may even cause you to swallow more air than you should, which can result in stomach issues.
- A weak tongue can overrelax at night and block the airway, contributing to sleep apnea in Bullard and surrounding areas. If OSA becomes severe enough, it can lead to excessive daytime fatigue, mood problems, and even serious health issues like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
- OMDs can affect your speech, resulting in a lisp or other problems with articulating sounds. They may also result in temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), which often leads to severe jaw pain, headaches, and other serious symptoms.
What Causes OMDs?
There are a number of possible causes behind OMDs.
Sometimes, children are born with an anatomical defect that causes an OMD. For example, some children are born with tongue tie, a condition wherein the frenulum (the piece of tissue that attaches the bottom of the tongue to the bottom of the mouth) is too short or thick. Tongue tie can cause mouth breathing and improper tongue resting position. Along with a minimally invasive surgery, OMT can retrain a patient’s tongue and help them learn how to breathe through their nose.
In other cases, OMDs develop later in life. A jaw injury, worsening occlusion (the way a bite fits together), and other factors may cause adults to develop an OMD.
Certain habits, both in children and adults, can also contribute to OMDs. Habits like pencil chewing, thumb-sucking, poor posture, leaning on the chin, bruxism (teeth grinding), and hair chewing can all cause problems with the way the orofacial structures function together.
What Signs Point to an OMD?
If you are a parent and are concerned that your child may have an OMD, it’s unlikely that your child will be able to describe the problem to you. They may not even know that they have a problem. Therefore, if you notice any of the following in your little one, you should bring them to our office for a consultation:
- The lips are apart even when they are at rest
- The lips appear strained when they are closed (this may cause wrinkling in the chin)
- The upper lip is flaccid and rolled outward
- The lips appear crusty
- There is an accentuated cupid’s bow appearance on the upper lip
- The cheeks are relatively flat
- One or both jaws is recessed
- The child has trouble with sipping, swallowing, and speaking
- The child snores loudly
How Does OMT Help?
You’re probably familiar with the basic idea behind physical therapy; it uses a series of guided exercises to improve the strength and function of certain muscles. OMT in East Texas works on a similar principle, but it is focused on the orofacial muscles. Our in-house expert has extensive experience with OMT and an intimate knowledge of how the structures in and around the mouth should work together.
When you visit us for your consultation, Lindi will evaluate your mouth and identify the issues that are causing your problems. If he determines that you are a candidate for OMT, she will design a therapy plan to strengthen your orofacial muscles and train them to work harmoniously with the structures around them. For example, she can correct the resting position of your tongue in order to facilitate proper swallowing and reduce your chances of developing orthodontic problems with your front teeth.
What Are the Benefits of OMT?
OMT offers a number of significant benefits:
- For many people, OMT offers a non-invasive, relatively inexpensive alternative to other treatments. For example, it may help you avoid surgery for TMD disorder.
- OMT could eliminate the need for you to use a CPAP machine to treat obstructive sleep apnea. In fact, a meta-analysis of scientific research found that OMT decreases apnea hypopnea index by roughly 50 percent in adults and 62 percent in children.
- Retraining your orofacial structures to work at their best will have positive effects on the way your face looks.
- Using the nose to breathe will allow you to get more oxygen, which encourages proper growth in children and helps adults to feel fresher and more alert. Proper nasal breathing can also help you avoid oral health problems, like dry mouth and tooth decay.
- Eating and speaking are likely to become much easier.
- Choosing our team for OMT has a special benefit — Lindi can often treat patients via Skype, saving you travel time.
To learn more about OMT and how it might be able to help you, contact us today to schedule a consultation with our in-house OMT expert.