What is an Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder (OMD)?
When a person is diagnosed as having an Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder (OMD), this means that the person exhibits abnormal structures of the oral and/or orofacial musculature, dental of skeletal structures that impede or interfere in development, or abnormal functioning abilities within the oral/dental area. Tongue Thrust is a symptom of an Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder and characterized as an irregular swallowing pattern, and/or irregular tongue placement during speech. This irregular pattern is characterized by the tongue being seen protruding through the front teeth during eating, speaking, and swallowing. Tongue thrust can be diagnosed by a speech-language pathologist, an orthodontist, or dentist. Typically, if the tongue thrust is only present when eating or swallowing, it is the orthodontist that diagnoses the condition.
How Do I Know if My Child Has an Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder (OMD)?
Individuals who suspect a possible Orofacial Myofunctioal Disorder (OMD) are encouraged to get treatment from a speech-language pathologist prior to having orthodontic treatment (i.e.: braces). This is because while the braces will allow for correct alignment of the teeth, this is only temporary. Once the braces have been removed, but the tongue thrust not corrected, the tongue will push the teeth out of alignment within a few months, and the person will require another period with braces to realign the teeth. Many orthodontists will not start orthodontic treatment on their patients until the tongue thrust pattern has been treated and corrected.
Speech-language pathologists work with correcting OMD issues because not only is it important for individuals to hold correct tongue placement when speaking, eating, and swallowing, but also for orthodontic reasons. When a person has tongue thrust present when swallowing, this pressure of the tongue on the teeth can cause the teeth to become misaligned, even with the aid of braces.
What Type of Treatment is Recommended for OMD?
Speech-language pathologists treat OMD through a series of muscular exercises, called Myofunctional Therapy. Myofunctional Therapy corrects deviant orofacial motor patterns, corrects oral musculature imbalances, and finally teaches the correct swallowing patterns. It is important to note that a Myofunctional Treatment Plan must start with these musculature exercises in order to strengthen and change the orofacial muscles. Once these muscles are primed and balanced the correct swallowing pattern can then be taught. Myofunctioal Therapy is a very successful therapy program, when completed as prescribed.