Myofunctional Disorders/Breathing Education

Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMDs) are disorders of the muscles and functions of the face and mouth.  OMDs may affect, directly and/or indirectly, breastfeeding, facial skeletal growth and development, chewing, swallowing, speech, occlusion, temporomandibular joint movement, oral hygiene, stability of orthodontic treatment, facial esthetics and more.

Most OMDs originate with insufficient habitual nasal breathing or with mouth breathing.  the subsequent adaptation of the muscles and the orofacial functions to a disordered breathing pattern creates many OMDs.  Orafacial Myofunctional Disorders may impact treatments by orthodontists, dentist, dental hygienist, speech-language pathologists, and other professionals working in the orofacial area.

Correct swallowing depends on a proper relationship between muscles of the face, mouth and throat.  The act of swallowing is one function that depends on the body’s vital balance.  To swallow properly, muscles and nerves in the tongue, cheeks and throat must work together in harmony.  When a person swallow normally, the tip of the tongue pressed firmly against the roof of the mouth or hard palate located slightly behind the front teeth.  The tongue acts in concert with all the other muscles involved in swallowing.  The hard palate, meanwhile, absorbs the force created by the tongue.

The tongue exerts 500 grams of force when swallowing and the lips and cheeks exert 300 grams of force.  When a tooth is being moved with braces there is only 1.8 grams of force being used.  A person swallows 500-1000 times a day.  So you can see that improper swallowing and incorrect resting position of the tongue can cause a variety of problems.

An incorrect swallow or incorrect tongue resting position can cause dental problems.  When a person swallows incorrectly, the tip and/or sides of the tongue press against or spread between the teeth.  this is commonly called a tongue thrust.  Constant pressure from resting or incorrectly thrusting the tongue away from the hard palate may push teeth out of place.  That pressure may later prevent teeth from erupting (breaking through the gum).

An OMD may lead to an abnormal bite – the improper alignment of between the upper and lower teeth know as malocclusion.  This problem may lead to difficulties in biting, chewing, swallowing, and digesting food.

Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders can often cause cosmetic problems.  Often the most obvious symptoms of incorrect oral posture involves the muscles of the face.  A dull, sluggish appearance and thin weak lips develop when muscles aren’t operating normally.

Constantly parted lips (with or without mouth breathing) also signal this disorder.  A person swallowing incorrectly will often purse and tighten the muscles of the cheeks, chin and lips – a symptoms know as a facial grimace.  This can give the chin a knobby appearance because these muscles are being overused.  This type of swallow also engages the lips and cheek muscles which restrict the natural growth of the upper and lower dental arches which results in malocclusion.

Mouth breathing can cause the lower jaw to grow in a downward position.  This creates an elongated face. It can also “tilt” the upper arch creating a “gummy” smile.

Mouth breathing or constantly open lips is a cause and/or signal of tongue thrust and low tongue rest posture.  When the tongue is swallowing or resting in the correct position it becomes a “natural expander”.  The tongue in the roof of the mouth exerts pressure which develops the arch to its full genetic potential.  When the arch is not developed properly it will cause midface deficiency as well as malocclusion.

Some causes of OMDs are enlarged tonsils and adenoids and allergies.