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Treatment Options For Myofunctional Disorders

Updated: Apr 3

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Treatment Options For Myofunctional Disorders

The Academy of Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (AOMT) defines orofacial myofunctional disorders, or OMDs, as, “disorders of the muscles and functions of the face and mouth [which] 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.”

As you can probably tell from the broad nature of that definition, there are many OMDs, and they affect those who suffer from them in a variety of ways and in many different parts of the body. This is because not only are the mouth, face, jaw, and airway deeply interconnected and interdependent systems, but they are all critically important structures as well. When things go wrong in this area, the consequences can sometimes be severe and far reaching.

Diagnosing OMDs

One of the difficulties with OMDs is that they oftentimes go undiagnosed. Many disorders of the mouth, jaw, and airway can be difficult or impossible for the patient to notice. They notice the symptoms they’re suffering, but the cause remains undetectable. One such disorder is obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. In people who suffer from OSA, the tongue or muscles of the throat chronically block the airway during sleep, causing momentary disruptions in the patient’s sleep throughout the night. This is often due to improper resting posture of the tongue or the muscles of the throat. Unfortunately, these disruptions – called apneas, from the Greek apnous, meaning “breathless” – are so short the patient never regains full consciousness, and therefore doesn’t remember them happening. They only feel the symptoms: drowsiness, not feeling rested even after a full night’s sleep, inattention, poor memory, dry mouth, sore throat, headaches, irritability, and more. Myofunctional Disorder And Causes

Myofunctional disorders are quite common, affecting 70% of adults. Myofunctional disorders are commonly referred to as “bad bite.” A bad bite means that the upper and lower teeth are not lined up properly, which can place strain on the jaw muscles and cause headaches. These disorders can develop in children, teens, and adults, and can cause a host of problems.

Myofunctional disorders are caused by habits, such as mouth breathing, tongue thrusting, thumb sucking, and lip sucking. These habits can lead to mouth and jaw misalignment as well as facial and neck pain.

Orofacial myofunctional therapy, or OMT, is the medical discipline devoted to diagnosing and treating OMDs. One reason why many OMDs go undiagnosed is that OMT is a rapidly emerging field, and many medical professionals are not yet trained to recognize the telltale markers of OMDs. Since OMDs are so numerous and so frequently undiagnosed, nobody knows exactly how common they are, but it’s safe to say that millions of Americans are affected by one OMD or another.

Diagnosis and treatment of OMDs, TMD, and airway issues are all part of Dr. Snyder’s holistic approach to dentistry and whole body health. After all, given how deeply connected all of these systems are, the only way that makes sense to approach and understand their health is to look at the whole picture.

Symptoms Of OMDs

To get a good overview of the symptoms of some of the most common OMDs, let’s take a brief look back at their definition from part 1, specifically the list of things they affect: “breastfeeding, facial skeletal growth and development, chewing, swallowing, speech, occlusion, temporomandibular joint movement, oral hygiene, stability of orthodontic treatment, facial esthetics, and more.”

Next up; facial skeletal growth and development. Many OMDs can have a negative impact on the development of the bones of the face, but one of the most common is tongue thrust. When a human swallows, we use the muscles of our mouth, jaw, and throat in concert to create the necessary force and pressure. In a normal swallow, that force passes from the tongue to the hard palate – the part of the roof of the mouth directly behind the front teeth. The hard palate is designed to take that force, so it’s no big deal, even though the average person swallows around 1000 times per day, transferring that force to the hard palate each and every time.

In a tongue thrust, the tongue pushes against the teeth rather than the hard palate. Over time, this moves the teeth, leading to what is known as an open bite. Until the tongue thrust is corrected, orthodontics will be useless in aligning the teeth – the tongue will just push them back out of alignment once the braces are removed.

Effects Of OMDs On Temporomandibular Joint Movement

The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is the joint that forms the connection between the jaw and the skull. Temporomandibular disorder, or TMD, is a painful condition that affects this joint. Symptoms include pain in one or both TMJs, aching, clicking, locking of the joint or joints, difficulty in chewing or pain while chewing, and more.

The precise causes of TMD can be difficult to determine and vary from case to case. However, for many sufferers of TMD, OMT can provide relief by strengthening the muscles of the face and jaw and retraining them so that they have the proper posture.

Effects Of OMDs On Breastfeeding

The most common OMD that affects breastfeeding is a condition called a lip tie. A lip tie occurs when the labial frenulum (the thin membrane of skin connecting the upper lip to the gum line above the front teeth) is too long, and therefore holds the upper lip too closely to the teeth. In breastfeeding infants, a lip tie can cause the mother a lot of pain, and leads to poor latching, poor weight gain, and coughing and spitting up for the baby.

Effects Of OMDs On Oral Hygiene, Stability Of Orthodontic Treatment, And Facial Esthetics

The effects of OMDs on all three of these are interrelated. Numerous OMDs might affect stability of orthodontic treatment, one of the most common being tongue thrust. In a patient with tongue thrust, the excess muscular forces produced by the tongue are misdirected into the teeth, rather than being transferred into the hard palate where they can dissipate safely. Over time, these repeated, misplaced forces push the teeth out of alignment. This condition is known as an open bite. The most common type of open bite is an anterior open bite, meaning that the front teeth are being pushed out, but open bite can also affect the teeth on either side of the mouth if the tongue pushes sideways during the swallow.

Misaligned teeth and an improper bite both negatively impact oral hygiene. Crooked teeth are harder to clean, and therefore more likely to develop cavities. Malocclusion – the medical term for a misalignment of the bite – often causes premature erosion of tooth enamel. When the teeth don’t come together as they’re supposed to, it creates unnatural pressure points that eventually erode the enamel. Once the enamel is worn through, the interior layers of the teeth are open to decay, which causes cavities. This is one reason why dentists say there’s no such thing as a functional malocclusion.

The jaw line is one of the most pronounced features of the face. When the jaw has improper resting posture, facial esthetics will be affected.

Various OMDs also cause the muscles of the face to stay in unnatural tension. This not only affects facial aesthetics but leads to aches and in some cases even muscle spasms, as well as a distorted, sluggish appearance in the face.

Treating OMDs

What are the treatment options for Myofunctional Disorders? Myofunctional therapy offers relief to sufferers of a wide range of OMDs. A dentist office is a great place to diagnose and treat OMDs for a few reasons. First, dentists are often the healthcare provider that people see most frequently. Furthermore, dentists and dental hygienists are experts on the anatomy and function of the mouth and jaw area. Dental professionals are also in a great position to spot myofunctional disorders in children, when they commonly affect development.

Orofacial myofunctional therapy, or OMT, treats myofunctional disorders by strengthening and retraining the muscles and structures where the problem lies. It achieves this in several ways, the most common being via a personalized regimen of exercises that target the affected area. The exercises are simple and pain-free. As long as the patient can stick with them and do them regularly, they can provide relief for a wide variety of OMDs by correcting postural issues and restoring natural function.

Myofunctional therapy can also be extremely helpful alongside other treatments. For example, the most common treatment for patients with tongue tie is called a surgical procedure called a frenuloplasty. After surgery, myofunctional therapy allows for the muscles of the mouth, jaw, and throat to be properly retrained and strengthened for maximum patient benefit.

How Is Myofunctional Disorder Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of myofunctional disorders begins with a dental exam. The dentist looks for signs of teeth grinding or clenching. They also look for signs of a recessed chin, open bite, crowding, or protruding tongue. Some patients may be referred to an orthodontist for further treatment.

Risks Associated With Myofunctional Disorders

The most common risk associated with myofunctional disorders is misalignment of the teeth and bite. A patient with untreated myofunctional disorders may develop a malocclusion, which is when the upper and lower jaw are misaligned. If left untreated, a malocclusion can lead to other dental problems.

How To Treat Myofunctional Disorders

Luckily, there are many effective treatment options for myofunctional disorders. Most myofunctional disorders can be treated with behavioral therapy, which teaches the patient how to retrain their oral muscles for effective bite and tongue function. Patients can also be fitted with mouth guard or oral appliance. These appliances are usually worn at night or during activity.

Oral appliances can help train the jaw muscles to function properly by gently positioning the jaw into proper placement.

To find out more about the dental services offered by our dentist in Albuquerque NM, Dr. Snyder, call (505)-293-7611, schedule an online consultation or visit us at 4830 Juan Tabo Blvd. NE, Ste. K, Albuquerque, NM, 87111.



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