Orofacial Myology is the study and treatment of disorders that involve a variety of postural and functional abnormalities of the muscles of the tongue, lips, jaw, and face that occur in children and adults. These disorders are described as Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMD).
In most cases, OMD is the result of a combination of factors, and can result from:
• abnormal thumb, finger, lip, and tongue sucking habits.
• habits such as nail biting, cheek and lip biting, clothes chewing, and grinding of teeth during sleep.
• a restricted airway, which can be the result of enlarged tonsils or adenoids, a narrow upper jaw, a large tongue or allergies.
• structural or physiological issues such as “tongue tie”.
• neurological or developmental abnormalities.
• hereditary disposition to any of the above factors.
OMD produce a controlled and continuous force on the facial skeleton such as the teeth and jaws similar to that of orthodontics (bands or braces). Over time, if left untreated, this force can contribute to the development of:
• inappropriate resting posture of the mouth or lips in an open position
• a forward upper or lower resting posture of the tongue
• a tongue resting position between the sides or back teeth
• inappropriate thrusting of the tongue during speaking and/or swallowing
• mouth breathing habits, typically as the result of an inability to breathe adequately through the nose
• poor posture
• crooked teeth and a crowded mouth
• an improper bite relationship
• developmental abnormalities of the upper and lower jaws and facial structures
• asymmetrical lip and facial appearance and function
• incorrect chewing function
• altered speech patterns
Therefore, an OMD can negatively influence dental growth, slow orthodontic treatment, and in many cases it may undermine the long-term stability of an orthodontic correction, resulting in relapse. Furthermore, research has revealed that around 80% of patients with an undiagnosed or untreated OMD may have speech problems. When there is a combination of OMD and related speech problems, it is often difficult to correct the speech problems through traditional speech therapy until the OMD is corrected also.
Children and even adults with an incorrect chewing and swallowing pattern, including an inability to breathe adequately through the nose, may frequently chew their food with their lips open. This results in digestion issues such as an upset stomach, reflux, and bloating as air is swallowed along with partially chewed food.
Dr Tony Eldridge is pleased to be associated with Orofacial Myologist, Colleen O’Callaghan of Mouth Matters, Centre for Orofacial Myology. Mouth Matters offers therapy programs for children and adults to correct OMD. A therapy program typically deals with changing behaviour and muscle function to correct abnormal swallowing patterns, and encourage proper facial growth and development including tooth alignment, jaw shape, function and speech.
Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy Programs consists of exercises that are performed for 5 minutes, 2 – 3 times per day, generally over a 4 – 12 month period. All muscles respond better to regular and consistent exercise. Programs offered are:
• Tongue rest posture
• Thumb, finger and dummy sucking
• Biting and chewing habits
• Mouth breathing
• Open lip posture
Appointments are scheduled every 2 weeks, where a proficiency assessment is completed, and new exercises set.
Many scientific studies show that Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy can be 80-90% effective in correcting OMD. These corrections are retained for years after therapy, providing long-term dental and general health benefits including the retention of orthodontic treatments and favourable stability of the face, jaw, mouth and airway.