Digits and Spots logo

Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders

Orofacial myofunctional disorders, can you “spot” one?

An orofacial myofunctional disorder (OMD) includes a variety of habit patterns, postures and functional activities that open the dental bite beyond a normal resting or functional range.  “Digit”- thumb/finger sucking, a mouth-open posture with lips apart, a forward rest posture of the tongue, and thrusting of the tongue during speaking and swallowing characterize myofunctional disorders.  Such disorders can lead to the disruption of normal dental development in children and over-eruption of selected teeth in adults.

What causes an OMD, the “Mouth-Body Connection” 

All babies are born with a low forward swallowing pattern (tongue thrust).  With normal growth and development, the tongue begins to lift up into and against the palate (roof of the mouth).  OMD’s may result from a variety of oral and facial muscle dysfunctions that can interrupt these normal processes. 

OMD’s may result from:

  • Improper oral habits
  • Restricted nasal airway
  • Structural or physiological abnormalities such as a short lingual frenum (tongue-tie)
  • Neurological or developmental abnormalities
  • Hereditary predisposition

Children who cannot breathe through their noses will reposition the tongue to make breathing easier. This abnormal position places the tongue between the lower molars rather than the upper molars, as is normal.  Airway obstruction due to allergies or enlarged adenoids can lead to cross-bites. The resulting open mouth/breathing posture can lead to an upper lip tendency to become shorter, revealing an excessive amount of gingival tissues, a “gummy” look.  The lower lip tends to lengthen, giving the appearance of the “pouty” lip.

Some effects of oral postural changes can include: 

  • not being able to properly suction saliva
  • incorrect chewing and swallowing patterns
    • messy eater, chewing with lips open and making noisy sounds
    • taking large bites, and swallowing without completely chewing the food
    • washing food down by drinking large amounts of liquid
    • difficulty taking pills
    • slurred or difficult to understand speech , a “lisp”