What is Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy?
Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (OMT) aims to correct disorders of the muscles and functions of the face, mouth, lips, or jaw -- known as orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs), which are very common in childhood. In fact, the incidence is as high as 81% in children exhibiting speech/articulation problems (Kellum, 1992). OMT does this by essentially re-educating and re-patterning oral and facial muscles.
Common orofacial myofunctional disorders in children and adults:
- Lisping (speech defect characterized by mispronunciation of the sounds)
- Tongue thrusting (tongue protrudes through teeth during swallowing, speech, and resting)
- Thumb or finger sucking
- Over-use of dummy
- Mouth breathing over nose breathing
- Dental malocclusion (misaligned teeth)
- Enlarged tonsils
- Blocked nasal airways
- Jaw clenching or teeth grinding (bruxism) - leading to TMJ problems
- Raised shoulders and noticeably breathing into upper chest
- Forward head posture
- Bed wetting
- Irritability and anxiety
- Dark circles under the eyes from lack of quality sleep
- Atypical chewing or swallowing patterns
- Breastfeeding difficulties:
- Shallow latch
- Tongue lip tie release
The way we breathe affects everything...
Research now suggests that the way we breathe can influence our teeth alignment, facial development, spinal posture, behaviour, concentration, learning, tendencies to allergy, blood pressure and heart health (1,2,3).
Childhood is a excellent time to establish healthy breathing patterns. However, if you’re an adult and suffer from an OMD you may still be successfully treated with Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy -- it’s never too late to live a healthier life!
Chronic nasal obstruction causes chronic ‘mouth open’ posture at rest (4). It’s now well accepted that the muscles of the tongue, lips and cheeks play a major role in tooth position, jaw and facial development (3). Fingers and thumbs and dummies in the mouth may predispose to open mouth posture and a lower position of the tongue.
The many benefits breathing through our noses:
- Less colds
- Improved asthma control
- Better oral health
- Less snoring and sleep apnea
- Better facial growth and less orthodontic problems
- Beautiful posture and less pain
- Stronger immune system
Posture, especially of the head and neck, is also very much influenced by the way we breathe. It has long been recognised that blocked or obstructed airways, at the nose or throat or bronchi (most common in children), will make a person tilt their head back to increase the size of the airway.
When it comes to noses, it’s a case of “use it or lose it”.
The adage, “use it or lose it” applies to noses in particular. A nose which is not used to breath through, will easily become blocked, and stay blocked. This is not good for your child’s overall health and wellbeing or immune system. A constant ‘mouth open’ posture at rest causes children to breathe cold, non-filtered, non-humidified air. Mouthbreating alters the position of the lips and the tongue. This in turn alters muscle tension which leads to an altered pattern of facial growth and morphology with dental abnormalities (4).
If this response becomes habitual the person develops fixed postural abnormalities, such as forward head posture. This is known to be associated with neck pain, back pain, headaches and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome. A child who is not getting enough air, or a child or adult who has become habituated to over-breathing or straining for air will frequently show a forward head posture and tight neck and shoulder muscles. Their diaphragm function tends to change and this affects the development of the rib cage and postural patterns in general (2).
The healthy resting position of the tongue is at the roof of the mouth, the teeth are touching or slightly apart, and the lips are together without strain. When a child grows up with proper oral posture the face develops in appropriate balance according to its genetic plan. Also, there is proper balance between the forces of the tongue and the cheeks, and the teeth tend to come into relatively good positions (5).
How does Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy help children and adults?
The basic treatment of OMT is to re-educate the movement of muscles, restore correct swallowing patterns, and establish adequate labial-lingual postures. Typically, a ‘team approach’ is always desirable to correct swallowing, speech, and other orofacial myofunctional disorders. Your child’s team may include an osteopath, dentist, certified orofacial myologist, and a speech therapist.
Sometimes mouth breathing can be cured by simple breathing techniques practiced with determination and persistence. The Buteyko Breathing Method includes some of the best breathing techniques for clearing the nose and teaching people to breathe nasally.
Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy treatment at GrowingBones:
At Growing Bones, traditional orofacial myofunctional therapy is offered alongside osteopathy.
Osteopathic care in children is concerned with balancing body structure to improve function and support healthy, balanced growth patterns.
Osteopathic treatment aims to release areas of tension and orofacial exercises serve to retrain muscles of the face, jaw, lips and tongue. In the young child, the function of these muscles is thought to support healthy growth of the face, nose breathing and optimal occlusion.
There are two ways orofacial myofunctional therapy is practiced at Growing Bones:
Prescription of exercises for children or adults following general osteopathic treatment
Individualised orofacial myofunctional therapy programs for children with orofacial disorders, including malocclusion, mouth breathing, prolonged pacifier (dummy) use, or prolonged thumb sucking.
If breathing airways are blocked due to enlarged tonsils and adenoids or allergies, speech treatment may be postponed until medical treatment for these conditions is completed.
Read more about the central and surprising role of nose breathing in childhood development and adult longevity.
Gozal, D, Kheirandish-Gozal, L . (2008). Cardiovascular Morbidity in Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, and Much More Am J Respir Crit Care Med.177(4): 369–375. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200608-1190PP
Courtney, R. (2013). Correct Breathing and healthy airways are fundamental to children health. Retrieved 29th January, 2015 from http://www.breathandbody.com.au/storage/Correct%20Breathing_May2013.pdf
Hanson, D. (2015). Breathing, Crooked Teeth and Health. Retrieved 29th January, 2015 from
Havas, TE. (n.d.) Nasal Obstruction and Secondary Dento-facial Deformities in Children [Flyer]. Bondi Junction, NSW, Havas ENT Clinic.
Face Focused. (n.d.). Proper Oral Posture. Retrieved 29th January, 2015 from http://facefocused.com/proporpos.html