What is Orofacial Myology?
Orofacial Myologists study the function, behaviors, and patterns of the muscles of the face, mouth, and tongue in order to identify where inappropriate muscle function and behaviors are disrupting normal dental development, normal swallow, and/or creating cosmetic problems.
What causes an orofacial myofunctional disorder?
There can be many causal factors. Research shows that airway obstruction is one of the leading factors that may lead to the development of an orofacial myofunctional disorder. Airway obstruction can be caused by several factors:
- Thumb Sucking/Pacifier Sucking/Finger Sucking
- Enlarged Tonsils/Adenoids
- Deviated Septum
- Nasal Polyps
- Several other causal factors
At rest, a healthy oral posture would be one where the lips would be closed with the tongue resting along the hard palate (roof) of the mouth. During the foundational years of life, this tongue posture helps to form the shape of the inside of the oral cavity, including the hard palate (roof of the mouth) and position of the teeth. When a person’s airway is restricted by any one of these factors, they will make adjustments in order to be able to breath. For instance, if you can’t breathe through your nose, you will open your mouth.
While that is not necessarily problematic once in a while, say when you have a cold, if the airway obstruction is chronic, the muscles, bones, and habits of the person can be affected. For instance, thumb sucking can result in a high narrow palate and anterior open bite of the teeth. Constant mouth breathing can result in a low tongue posture, again, causing a high narrow palate. These examples are very general, but may begin to give you a good idea of how our habits and muscles may affect the development of other muscles and bones in our body.
Click Here For More Information on the Causes of Orofacial Myofuctional Disorders
Tongue thrust is one of the most common types of orofacial myology variations. Effects of improper patterns and habits can put tongue pressure against the teeth. A lack of pressure from the cheek and lips can result in the movement of the skeletal and tooth posture. These problems are MYOFUNCTIONAL in nature.
Thumb/finger sucking and open mouth posture with the lips apart at rest are other common problematic MYOFUNCTIONAL variations which can cause incorrect positioning of the tongue and lips and typically contribute to the misalignment of teeth.
Most people do not realize that these behaviors can continue into adulthood, causing not only appearance problems, but also a great deal of dental and swallowing issues. Our goal is to establish proper facial tone and muscle balance so patients will be able to maintain maximum function and oral health over the course of their lifetime.
Is treatment necessary?
Orofacial Myologists are trained to identify patterns and habits of the muscles of the face, mouth, and tongue which may be problematic for normal dentition, facial appearance, and swallowing. There are many variations of orofacial disorders, and these disorders need to be evaluated individually, especially when there are dental, medical, or speech concerns. The decision to treat or not to treat should be made by a professional trained in Orofacial Myology. Treatment helps to ensure that normal growth and development can take place and progress in a stable, homeostatic environment.
Who should treat?
Treatment should be completed by a professional specially trained and/or certified as an Orofacial Myologist. Using a team approach, we can remediate a variety of myofunctional disorders, allowing patients to maintain maximum function and oral health over the course of a lifetime.