What are Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders?
Orofacial myofunctional disorders, also known as OMDs, occur when the muscles of the face, jaw, and mouth function improperly. The majority of OMDs begin with mouth breathing, or with insufficient nasal breathing. Over time, the body adapts to this improper breathing pattern, which in turn can cause a myriad of consequences in speaking, chewing, swallowing, bite alignment, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) movement, the development and growth of the bone structure of the face, breastfeeding, maintenance of oral hygiene, stability of orthodontic treatment, the appearance of the face, and more.
The consequences of improper swallowing
When we swallow, the muscles of the face, mouth, and throat must all work together in harmony. During a normal swallow, the tip of the tongue presses against the hard palate – the area on the top of the mouth just behind the front teeth. While the other muscles of the mouth and face work together to complete the swallow, the hard palate absorbs the excess muscular force created by the process. Since the average person swallows as many as 1000 times in a day, the cumulative force of the tongue on the hard palate over time is considerable.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]In many OMDs, the tongue has an improper resting posture, which causes the excess force of swallowing to be passed on to other parts of the mouth rather than the hard palate. Over thousands and thousands of swallows, this can have considerable negative effects. However, as detrimental as the misplaced forces of swallowing due to improper tongue posture can be, improper resting position of the tongue is often even more destructive, since the tongue spends most of its time in the resting position.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_single_image image=”2754″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” style=”vc_box_shadow_3d”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Types of OMDs
Since the number of possible maladaptations that cause orofacial myofunctional disorders are so varied, OMDs take many different forms. Let’s take a look at a few of the more common types of OMDs:
Tongue thrust occurs when the tongue is positioned too far forward while resting and swallowing. In patients who suffer from tongue thrust, the tongue pushes against the teeth instead of the hard palate during the act of swallowing. This means all that force that should be going into the hard palate is instead misdirected into the teeth, which causes a number of problems – both dental and otherwise.
Lip tie and tongue tie
Lip and tongue ties occur when a thin piece of skin known as a frenulum is too short, too thick, or attaches too far up on the inside of the lip or bottom of the tongue. Lip ties are well known in the myofunctional community for causing difficulty in breastfeeding, while tongue ties can cause speech problems, oral hygiene issues, and more.
OMDs and TMJ
Since OMDs affect the proper posture and usage of the muscles of the jaw, many of them can cause or contribute to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), a painful affliction of the joint that attaches the jaw to the skull.
Want to learn more about orofacial myofunctional disorders? Check out our pages on the symptoms of OMDs and treatment of OMDs.