Orofacial Myology is the study and treatment of the orofacial and oropharyngeal muscles, their associated movements, and how muscle movement can directly and/or indirectly affect the functions of respiration, breastfeeding, craniofacial growth, development of upper airway complex, chewing, swallowing, speech, dental occlusion, stability of orthodontic treatment, temporomandibular joint movement, oral hygiene, facial esthetics, and overall physical and mental development.
Occurring in 38% of the general population, an Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder (OMD) is a pathological condition created by disruption in the functions of the stomatognathic system; primarily functions related to breathing, chewing, swallowing, and speaking. When the muscles of the orofacial complex are in atypical patterns over a long period of time resulting in compensatory adaptions. These adaptions change muscular function, which in turn can result in structural changes. OMD's can include a myriad of different signs and symptoms; however, the most common OMD’s are:
If we look for a common link between all OMD's we will notice that in all instances, the tongue is resting low in the mouth, the lower jaw is opened beyond the normal freeway space, the lips may be parted, or look strained if sealed, and the patient may or may not be practicing mouth breathing. In other words, there is a deviation from the normal resting position of the orofacial muscles, which leads to craniofacial structural changes, and altered function. It has long been known that FORM and FUNCTION are concepts that bidirectionally affect one another. What we now need to consider is WHAT is causing the deviation from the norm, and WHEN is appropriate to seek professional help.
The goal of intervention is to address the etiology of the OMD, arrest the progression of the disorder, restore the oral rest posture, and restore age appropriate oral function. These goals are often accomplished through the utilization of an integrated team of practitioners, multiple therapist, a comprehensive treatment plan, and time.
Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders are atypical, adaptive patterns that emerge in the absence of normalized patterns within the orofacial complex. The regular presence of these adaptive movements can often result in a variety of disturbances. It is often difficult to isolate a particular source as the sole cause of an Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder and in most cases, it can be result of a combination of many factors.
Many experts suggest that OMD's may develop at birth or into adulthood, and can be the result of changes in orofacial muscle patterns attributed, but are not limited to the following:
POOR ORAL REST POSTURE of the jaw, lips, and tongue at rest.
MOUTH BREAHTING due to an obstructed or restricted upper airway complex due to: chronic allergies and nasal congestion, small nasal cavity, a deviated septum, enlarged turbinates, limited sinuses, an enlarged adenoid or tonsils, elongated soft palate, limited oral volume, and limited tongue space.
BOTTLE FEEDING in the absence of breast feeding.
POOR WEANING AND SOFT DIETS that eliminates the need for chewing. These topics fuel debates over the introduction of solid foods vs pureed foods and diets that are high in processed foods, and refined sugar.
NOXIOUS PARAFUNCTIONAL ORAL HABITS such as prolonged pacifier use, spouted sippy cup use, thumb sucking, tongue sucking, blanket sucking, atypical swallowing patterns, nail biting, cheek biting, lip licking, high oral fixation, clenching, grinding of teeth, and even smoking.
STRUCTURAL ABNORMALITIES such as restricted oral tissues of the lip, cheek, and tongue, a narrow, highly vaulted palate, poor lingual-palatal accommodation, a mid-face deficiency, or retrognathic chin.
EPIGENETICS or environmental factors that modify the expression of one's DNA.
GENETICS or hereditary predisposition of our DNA.
NEUROLOGICAL OR DEVELOPMENTAL ABNORMALTIES such as Down’s Syndrome, Bell’s palsy, or facial paralysis after a stroke.
Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders interrupt normalized movement patterns. Orthodontists have documented their concerns about OMD’s since the early 1900’s, but along the way fell out of our textbooks, and professional institutes. Today, we have several hundred activists in the airway centric community, actively studying OMD's, their impact, how to prevent them, and so much more. It is known, failure to address an OMD can result in the following:
Public awareness, patient education, and early intervention is the key to success, no matter the patient's age. Depending on when a patient enters our practice, treatment can be considered PREVENATIVE or RESTORATIVE in nature.
We know the first 1000 days of a child’s life play a crucial role in his or her development. By the time healthy toddlers are ready to enter preschool, they will have reached a number of developmental milestones. This knowledge is why we place a lot of emphasis on prevention in our pediatric population. By incorporating screening protocols that evaluate a child from a comprehensive and whole-body approach from birth, we can help preemptively remove developmental obstacles along the way, that can affect the quality of a child’s life into his or her adult years. If risk factors are identified, early intervention should be considered, and a medical-dental referral might be appropriate to help treat these patients comprehensively. For more information about our Simple Starts Program, click here.
The truth is it is never too early, and it is never too late to restore optimal health, and live healthier lives. Today, a traditional medical approach is often utilized to help triage conditions and manage symptoms. Once stabilized, our therapist can introduce ways to change negative habits through behavior modification and help address the potential barriers that could interfere with success. It is the change in one's lifestyle, and the ability to make better choices that arrest, and reverse the progression of disease. We have seen that the simplest, most basic concepts in healthcare are needed in order to restore optimal health, and wellness.
At Orofacial Myology of Central Texas, we believe wholeheartedly in the 5 TO THRIVE:
One of the hardest things to do is to just start. When it might feel impossible until it's done, our team of therapist are here to help you, and your family every step of the way.
There are many factors that contribute to the success of a therapy program. Effective communication and cooperation between the patient, the integrated wellness team, and your therapist is essential. This is why at Orofacial Myology of Central Texas, we uniquely guide patients, and help with their coordination of care. In addition to case management, the patient’s desire, dedication, cooperation, and self-discipline to succeed is necessary. Support from others can also be influential, and parental involvement is a must for young children and or adolescents seeking therapy. Consistency is the most important factor. The brain has to learn new neuromuscular patterns and establish new muscle memories. These new patterns will only integrate by being reproduced over, and over again. The bottom line is very simple - If one does not practice the recommended assignment consistently at home, you will not see change. These patients are at risk of hitting a plateau, and may not experience the full benefits that they are seeking.
The treatment for orofacial myofunctional disorder's continues to helped thousands of individuals, changing their outlook and trajectory of overall health. Numerous studies have been conducted demonstrating functional oral health solutions, and their effectiveness in the treatment of OMD's. These studies have shown that therapy can be 80-90% effective in correcting oral rest postures, age appropriate chewing and swallowing, speech delays, and other oral functions. We are also seeing that these corrections are retained years after completing therapy. Newer studies in sleep disordered breathing are documenting that with the addition of orofacial myofunctional therapy, we can decrease one's AHI by 50% in adults, and 62% in children alone. Patient's are even reporting an improvement in oxygen saturation, snoring, and sleepiness. The application of functional oral health is endless, and continues to be actively researched, and applied throughout the world.
For more information about functional oral health solutions, we personally invite you to visit our social media links, and or subscribe to our YouTube channel below. There you will find resources about all things related to Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders, and how our menu of services could be the missing link for you, or those that you love.