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Oral Myofunctional Disorders

Oral Myofunctional Disorders (OMDs) include a variety of negative habit patterns, postures, and functional activities. These types of disorders can lead to abnormal growth and development of teeth and the hard palate. Speech/articulation patterns may also become distorted. ​

​​Signs of OMDs:​​

  • Non-nutritive chewing and sucking habits (thumb sucking, nail biting, etc.)

  • Habitual open mouth posture

  • Improper position of the tongue at rest

  • Jaw muscle instability

  • Tongue thrusting

  • Ineffective chewing and biting skills

  • Overall orofacial muscle dysfunction

  • Speech Difficulties ("R", "S", "L", "Z" are common errors)

What causes an orofacial myofunctional disorder (OMD)?

There can be many factors that result in an orofacial myofunctional disorder. Research shows that airway obstruction is one of the leading factors leading to the development of an OMD. Airway obstruction can be caused by several factors:


  • Tongue & Lip Tie

  • Thumb Sucking/Pacifier Sucking/Finger Sucking

  • Enlarged Tonsils/Adenoids

  • Deviated Septum

  • Nasal Polyps

  • Several other causal factors


At rest, in a healthy oral posture the lips are 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 mouth, 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 cannot breathe through your nose, you will open your mouth. While that is not necessarily problematic once in a while like when you have a cold, if the airway obstruction is chronic, the muscles, bones, and habits of the person can be affected. In the case of thumb sucking, a child is at risk of developing a high narrow palate and open bite of the front 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.

Orofacial Myology

(aka Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy)

Orofacial Myology has been defined as “the study and treatment of oral and facial muscles as they relate to speech, dentition, chewing/bolus collection, swallowing, and overall mental and physical health” (S.R Holtzman).


Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy involves an individualized program to help the patient retrain these adaptive patterns of muscle function, and to create and maintain a healthy orofacial environment. Treatment goals may include the following:​​

  • Normalize tongue and lip resting postures

  • Establish nasal breathing patterns

  • Eliminate improper chewing and swallowing patterns

  • Stabilize the dentition from extraneous orofacial muscle movement


Address harmful oral habits including:

  • Prolonged pacifier use

  • Thumb and/or finger sucking

  • Fingernail, cheek, or lip biting

  • Tongue sucking

  • Clenching or grinding of the teeth


Benefits of Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy may include:

  • Correcting and improving tongue and lip postures which can aid in the development of normal patterns of dental eruption and alignment.

  • Assisting in the stabilization of the teeth during and/or after orthodontic treatment or jaw surgery

  • Identifying the need and referring for Speech treatment. Supporting the remediation of speech errors differently than some traditional methods (when working with a speech-language pathologist trained in Orofacial Myology).


Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy requires a commitment by the patient with parental support to complete the exercises.  Exercises are used to correct tongue and lip resting postures as well as to develop correct chewing and swallowing patterns. These daily exercises are painless and relatively simple and should be done consistently.


An Orofacial Myofunctional Therapist consistently monitors individual progress each week and adjusts the therapy program as needed. Collaboration with your monitoring dental professional is often necessary to make effective advancement.

Thumb sucking/pacifier programs:

At Speech with Sarah, we offer a highly effective 10-day individualized program to eliminate thumb and finger sucking and pacifier use. Our individualized program motivates and enables the child to make the decision to stop!  Why stop? Thumb sucking or sucking a pacifier may lead to malocclusion and open bite, imprecise speech production, chronic mouth breathing, deformed hard palate.

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Thumb Sucking

Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy

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