What You Should Know About Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders

Our Dental Blog | Child Dentistry | 06.11.2022

If your child has a tendency to breathe through their mouth as opposed to their nose or has difficulty making certain sounds, they may have an orofacial myofunctional disorder.

Orofacial myofunctional disorders can negatively impact your child’s oral and dental health and dampen their otherwise brilliant smile. Fortunately, the damage caused by these disorders doesn’t have to be permanent and your child can regain their radiant smile with just a little bit of therapy.

What are Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders?

The term orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs) refers to any number of abnormal muscle movements in the face and mouth. OMDs are often characterized by abnormal resting positions of the tongue, lips and jaw but can also include abnormal speech, breathing chewing and swallowing patterns.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders?

Because OMDs refers to a range of conditions, the signs and symptoms aren’t always the same and will vary from case to case. Nevertheless, there are some symptoms of OMDs that are more common than others.

  • Tongue thrust, where the tongue protrudes past the teeth and lips while speaking, chewing or swallowing.
  • Mouth breathing as opposed to nasal breathing could be a sign of an OMD. Nasal blockages or sinus infections could also be the cause.
  • Abnormal speech such as a lisp or difficulty making specific letter sounds is indicative of an OMD.
  • Dental malocclusions such as open bites or overbites can either signal an OMD or cause one. Common adverse oral habits such as thumb sucking and nail biting can worsen OMDs caused by malocclusions.
  • Open mouths and excessive drooling past the age of two (2) are also indicators of an OMD.
  • Sleep apnea.

Diagnosing OMDs can be tricky. Oftentimes, babies, infants and children will develop temporary or transitory OMDs as they grow and mature. It is not uncommon for young children learning to speak to develop a lisp or to have difficulty making certain sounds. Similarly, babies almost universally will have tongue thrust as they move from breast and bottle feeding to eating softer prepared foods. Both of these conditions are temporary and should resolve on their own.

It is best to consult a professional before diagnosing your child with an OMD. Pediatric dentists, doctors and speech-language pathologists are all qualified to make proper diagnoses with respect to OMDs.

What Causes OMDs?

There is no single cause for OMDs and each case may have its own unique set of genetic and environmental contributing factors. Birth defects such as cleft palates can affect the formation of the roof of the mouth and facial muscles, leading to OMDs. Similarly, behavioural traits can affect tongue position and even alter the shape of the face. Once again, it’s best to consult a professional who can identify potential causes for OMDs.

Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy

Most OMDs are easily corrected once diagnosed. Orofacial myofunctional therapists, speech pathologists and pediatric dentists can recommend tongue and jaw exercises to correct OMDs. Children with OMDs can usually see results within weeks of recommended exercises though, in some very rare instances, they will have to continue the exercises into adulthood.

In some cases, such as with OMDs caused by allergies, doctors and dentists may prescribe medications. Some OMDs require more than therapy and medication to rectify. Depending on the nature and severity of your child’s OMD, they may require orthodontic treatments to regain the proper function of their orofacial muscles.

Talk to Your Pediatric Dentist Today

As is the case with most other medical conditions, early diagnosis and treatment of OMDs is the best defence. If left untreated, OMDs can have adverse effects on your child’s oral and dental health.

At Treehouse Dental, we’re proud to offer some of the most comprehensive pediatric dentistry services in Toronto and the surrounding community. If you believe that your child has an OMD or has been diagnosed with one, book your appointment with us today or schedule a virtual consultation.

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