Speech Therapy

Oral Myofunctional Disorders- What Are Oral Myofunctional Disorders?

“Tongue thrust” is often used interchangeably with “oral myofunctional disorder” (OMD). But there is a difference between the two medical diagnoses. OMD’s are differences in the function or position of the muscles of the face and mouth. It includes the tongue and lips. These differences in skeletal, dental and muscular structures may interfere with speech, swallowing and oral rest postures.

Oral myofunctional disorder is the correct term since it involves the concept of incorrect lip movement for swallowing and tongue placement.  It also includes:

  • speech differences
  • oral habits like finger or thumb sucking
  • lingual or labial rest posture differences
  • structural abnormalities

Whereas tongue thrust refers to the improper function and placement of the tongue during swallowing. It is considered as a specific category of oral myofunctional disorder.

Concern About OMD

Dentists are concerned with the adverse effects of the facial muscles and tongue on the teeth occlusion (correct alignment of teeth). It has been observed that too much of tongue pressure against the teeth on the inside and incorrect facial muscle pressure from the outside results in misalignment  of the teeth.

Some other adverse effects of untreated OMD’s may include:

  • increased incidence of enlarged tonsils, chronic sore throats and other respiratory infections
  • problems wearing dentures (older people)
  • errors in articulation
  • lowered self-esteem due to negative aesthetic and cosmetic results of an incorrect mouth resting posture
  • prolonged usage of orthodontic appliances

Possible Causes Of OMD’s

No specific cause for OMD has yet been determined. Still many researchers believe that any hindrance to the airway may result in the development of an OMD or tongue thrusting. Any situation which forces the tongue out of its resting position may cause an OMD. It also results in facial/oral imbalance.

Some other possible causes are:

  • Hereditary factors
  • Enlarged tonsils
  • Allergies
  • Pacifier or thumb sucking beyond an appropriate age
  • Muscular, structural, neurological or other physiological problems

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