Normally, the muscles of your face, mouth and throat work together to allow you to breathe, swallow, chew, speak and make facial expressions easily and painlessly. Orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs) refer to abnormal movement patterns of the facial, mouth and throat muscles. Individuals with OMDs may have problems eating, swallowing, talking and breathing. They may also develop oral health issues, including tooth decay and problems with the bite.
If you or your child suffers from abnormal swallowing, chewing or related problems, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with the practice of Dr. Mia Fitzgerald. We have years of experience treating dental problems as a result of OMDs and work with top specialists experienced in myofunctional therapy to help restore the natural function of the facial muscles.
Causes and Symptoms of Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders
OMDs are often first developed at a young age as a result of prolonged oral habits like thumb sucking, mouth breathing, nail biting and incorrect lip posture. Other causes include teeth grinding, a restricted airway passage, sleep disorders, tongue tie and developmental abnormalities.
Signs and symptoms of OMDs include the following:
- Difficulty breathing through the nose (and regularly breathing through the mouth as a result of it)
- Restricted or limited tongue movement
- Difficultly eating, chewing and swallowing (especially beyond the toddler years)
- Difficulty closing the lips to swallow
- An overbite, underbite or crossbite
- Tongue thrust (when the tongue pushes past the teeth, even when a person is not talking or using the tongue)
- Jaw pain or soreness
- Sleep disorders as a result of improper breathing
- Speech impediments
- Difficulty making certain sounds
- Drooling, especially after age 2
- Stunted facial skeletal growth and development
Because many of the symptoms of OMDs occur in the oral cavity, dentists are often the first to detect that there is a problem. Dr. Fitzgerald has years of experience detecting signs of OMDs through in-depth oral examination. If she determines there are signs of an OMD, she can refer you to a specialist for a clinical diagnosis and work with them to develop an appropriate treatment plan.
What Is Myofunctional Therapy?
Myofunctional therapy corrects OMDs by training the muscles of the face, lips and tongue so they can move and work properly. This typically involves exercises to strengthen and coordinate the muscles, and behavior modification methods to promote proper function. Therapy also aims to create the ideal resting posture of the teeth, mouth, lips and tongue to encourage long-lasting orofacial harmony. The ideal resting posture is teeth and lips together with the tongue resting against the top of the mouth.
Each patient’s treatment varies depending on their age, symptoms and the severity of the problem. In children, myofunctional therapy aims to create lasting healthy habits and put them on the right trajectory for facial growth. Adults with OMDs may benefit from this as well as treatment of issues that have resulted due to their disorder, including TMJ therapy to alleviate jaw pain and orthodontics to correct bite misalignment issues.
To learn more about myofunctional therapy, schedule a personal appointment with the practice of Dr. Mia Fitzgerald. Contact our Sudbury office by calling or emailing us today.