The position of a child's tongue while swallowing, speaking, and resting can be an important indication of their health. Abnormal tongue positions can be successfully treated and corrected with myofunctional therapy, a specialized training process that ensures a future of good health for a child struggling.
Oral myofunctional disorder can be found in adults and children with special needs, speech disorders, and those with misaligned teeth. The form and function of the mouth can be significantly affected beyond appearance alone, and your child's oral health may be at risk.
What Is Oral Myofunctional Disorder (OMD)?
Oral myofunctional disorder (OMD) is when the muscles in the mouth and face are underdeveloped or lack tone. This causes an impact on a child's ability to articulate speech, swallow, and keep the mouth closed when at rest or while sleeping. Children who use a pacifier or suck their fingers are more likely to suffer from OMD as these harmful habits change the shape of the mouth and weaken muscles in and around the face.
Signs and Symptoms
Some common signs or symptoms of OMD may include:
- Weak lower lip
- Mouth breathing both at night and during the day
- Open mouth posture, or a tendency for the lower jaw to hang open
- Limited tongue movement
- Difficulty eating
- Speech delay or difficulty
- Drooling beyond the age of two
- Difficulty closing the lips to swallow
- Overbite, underbite, or other dental issues
A child with some or all of the previously mentioned symptoms may not necessarily be suffering from OMD. If you suspect your child is suffering from OMD, seek a professional opinion.
Myofunctional Disorder and Your Child's Oral Health
Over time, OMD can lead to long-term consequences for a child's oral health, including:
- Dental malocclusion where the teeth do not close properly
- An atypical pattern of swallowing, or thrusting of the tongue to swallow
- Difficulty with thoroughly chewing food
- Mispronunciation or difficulty with specific sounds (i.e., "s" in "sun," "sh" in "ship," or "j" in "jump.")
- Cosmetic issues, including the development of a long face or retruded chin
- Weak lips, or difficulty in closing the lips to swallow
- Long term mouth-breathing patterns that compromise overall healthy breathing
- Establishment of detrimental oral habits that impede further growth and development
- Establishment of atypical patterns that impact chewing and swallowing
- The improper development of jaw growth and facial structure
- Slowing the process of orthodontic treatment
- Undermining the long-term stability of orthodontic treatment, resulting in malocclusion relapse
- Negatively impacting the stability and function of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
- Jaw joint pain
- Negatively affecting social relationships due to open mouth postures or noisy chewing and swallowing patterns
How Myofunctional Therapy Can Help
Orofacial Myofunctional disorders are successfully treated with myofunctional therapy. These exercises are customized for every patient's individual needs. The success of myofunctional therapy depends on individual motivation and commitment to the therapy program, as breaking habits can be difficult.
Myofunctional therapy works by moving a patient through a series of exercises and activities that allow for the development of oral capabilities and establishing unharmful oral resting positions. The body and mind will simultaneously be trained to develop new swallowing and chewing techniques.
The essential therapy goals of orofacial myofunctional treatments are to eliminate harmful habits, such as finger or thumb sucking, while also obtaining the following:
- Aiding in the reduction and elimination of symptoms that lead to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD)
- Retraining the muscles of the tongue to restore correct swallowing habits while preventing orthodontic relapse
- Correcting improper mastication while improving the digestion of food and water consumption
- Improving rest posture of the tongue, lips, head, jaw, and neck
- Eliminating negative habits, such as pacifiers, finger and thumb sucking
How Your Dentist Can Help
The muscles of the face and mouth are designed to work together in a collaborative effort. Your child's dentist can help your family overcome the hurdles that may prevent them from using their mouth properly by identifying and diagnosing an issue early.
Bi-annual exams and cleanings are an excellent way for us to keep a close eye on your child's developmental milestones. Always seek the advice of Tompkins Dental regarding any questions or concerns you may have over your child's oral health.