The prefix "myo" stands for muscle. Orofacial myofunctional therapy is the treatment of the muscles of the mouth and face to normalize oral patterns and improve functional activities such as eating and speaking. Treating an orofacial myofunctional disorder is important for overall optimal growth and development.
In many cases, an orofacial myofunctional disorder may develop from a combination of factors. These may include:
Many patients are commonly referred for OMT because they exhibit an abnormal resting posture (e.g. open mouth with tongue protruded) or what was traditionally known as "tongue thrust swallow." When abnormal patterns are used, incorrect positioning of the tongue and lips may contribute to significant changes in orofacial and dental development over time. Misalignment may have further impact on articulation/speech skills, as well as chewing and swallowing skills.
If a patient is already undergoing orthodontic treatment, targeting any underlying orofacial myofunctional disorder can aide the orthodontic result by creating a stable oral environment.
There are many variables to be considered when determining when to initiate therapy. Children as young as four years old can benefit from an initial evaluation to determine if any preventative steps can be taken or referrals be made. Children of seven to eight years of age are often good candidates to begin an OMT program.
Although there are many factors that contribute to the outcome of therapy, the patient's own motivation and support from caregivers are key to the program's success. Cooperation and effective communication between all team members including the patient, family, speech-language pathologist, dentist, orthodontist, otolaryngologist and other medical professionals are crucial to ensure optimal results.