Orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs) affect the muscles of the mouth and face and cause atypical muscle movement patterns. These patterns can interfere with breathing, eating and talking.
Research indicates that 38 percent of the general population and up to 81 percent of children have speech/articulation problems caused by OMDs.
The consequences of these disorders can be severe if left untreated. OMDs can, directly and indirectly, affect facial and skeletal growth and development, bite alignment, movement of the jaw joints, and facial aesthetics. OMDs can also affect oral hygiene and the stability of past and future orthodontic treatment.
Some causes of OMDs include:
- Thumb sucking
- Finger sucking
- Adopting an oral resting posture with the lips apart
- Adopting a forward resting posture
- Insufficient room in the jaws for the tongue, which forces it between or against the teeth
- Tongue thrusting
- Nail biting
- Cheek sucking
- Genetic disorders, such as Down’s syndrome
These habits may not seem like a huge deal. But over time, they can contribute to or become a symptom of various medical and dental disorders, such as an unbalanced bite, gum disease, abnormal jaw growth and position, breathing disorders, and orthodontic relapse after braces or other orthodontic treatments.
OMDs can also contribute to tooth decay and gum disease because, for some individuals, orofacial myofunctional disorders can limit the tongue’s expected movement, which can decrease saliva flow and reduce the tongue’s ability to clean the mouth.
Digestive problems are another concern for patients with OMD, as improper swallowing can cause gastrointestinal issues and contribute to poor dietary choices.