The Effects of Oral Myofascial Disorder

Although you may not be familiar with the term oral myofacial disorder, you’re probably too familiar with one or more of its effects. If you have an OMD, you might notice:

  • Mouth breathing
  • Underdevelopment of facial skeleton
  • Poor facial esthetics
  • Orthodontic relapse
  • Difficulty swallowing and chewing
  • Difficulty speaking or distorted, lisping speech
  • Open bite overjet and other malocclusion
  • TMJ (Temporomandibular joint disorders)
  • Headaches and neck pains
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Snoring
  • Posture problems

As well as other subtler, less common symptoms. With treatment, all symptoms can be resolved.

What Is an OMD?

Now that you recognize some of the symptoms that could indicate you have an OMD, you might wonder, how did I develop this condition?

OMDs occur when the normal developmental pattern of your face and jaw is interrupted or altered, usually by certain physical structures or habitual actions. Facial development is governed by the relationship between your muscles (including the lips, cheeks, and tongue), teeth, and jaw. Dynamic, repeated pressure from the muscles stimulates the hard structures to grow, but also limits their growth. It’s the balance between these forces that governs development.

The normal balance can be altered by some bad habits, including:

  • Thumb or finger sucking
  • Mouth breathing
  • Biting nails
  • Chewing nonfood objects
  • Tongue thrusting
  • Inadequate chewing or avoiding hard foods
  • Poor swallowing habits

But it can also be changed by unusual physical structures such as a very restrictive tongue or lip tie.

Often, these habits and structures create a reinforcing pattern that can intensify with time. For example, a tongue tie might keep the tongue from stimulating development of the hard palate of the mouth. The hard palate is the roof of the mouth, but also the floor of the sinuses. If it doesn’t develop properly, the nasal airway may be narrow and inadequate. To supplement air from the nostrils, a person begins breathing through the mouth. In order to breathe through the mouth, the tongue must be on the bottom of the mouth, which means it provides even less stimulation to grow the upper palate, which results in improper chewing and swallowing.

How Oral Myofunctional Therapy (OMT) Works

There are many ways to treat an OMD, including orthodontics, surgery, and oral myofunctional therapy (OMT). As the most holistic and least invasive treatment, we prefer OMT.

OMT works by teaching you exercises that are designed to replicate the natural forces that should have shaped your during normal growth and development. The theory is that if the muscles are capable of shaping your facial structure, then they’re also capable of reshaping your facial structure. Resulting in proper chewing, swallowing, and nasal breathing.

The theory isn’t that different from orthodontics: under constant or repeated pressure, your body will respond by remodeling your bones. In orthodontics, the force is provided by metal brackets and wires or clear aligners, but in OMT the force is provided by your muscles. And just like orthodontics, OMT is more effective for teens, but it can also work great for adults.

A big advantage of OMT is that it also retrains your muscles so that healthy movements become their new normal pattern. And, unlike brackets, wires, and aligners, your tongue, lips, and cheeks are never removed–they stay with you and become your own natural retainer.

Before starting OMT, we will perform a comprehensive exam to make sure there aren’t other factors in play, such as physical structures that may need treatment, such as tongue tie and oral habits that interfere with proper chewing and swallowing.

Meet Our Oral Myofunctional Therapist

Kim Laughlin is a registered dental hygienist (RDH) and oral myofunctional therapist (OMT). She is a California native who graduated from the Foothill College Dental Hygiene Program in 1985. She is committed to changing her patients’ lives, and constantly works to add new skills that help her achieve that goal.

Her holistic approach as a dental hygienist helps her patients achieve better oral and overall health. This helps them live healthier, happier, and richer lives.

Adding myofunctional therapy to her skills further enhances her awareness of the mouth-body connection. As a myofunctional therapist, she teaches her patients to be aware of the motions of their oral and facial muscles. This helps them breathe more effectively and eat more efficiently. This helps patients enjoy better sleep, higher energy, and an overall improved quality of life.

Don’t Live with Your OMD

If you are unhappy with the consequences of your OMD, you don’t have to tolerate them any more. Instead, you can benefit from noninvasive OMT treatment, which utilizes your body’s natural growth and development mechanisms.

To learn what OMT can do for you, please call (408) 354-5600 today for an appointment at Top Down Dental in Los Gatos.