Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder (OMD)
By Megan MacLeod, Speech-Language Therapy
What’s an OMD?
An OMD is an atypical pattern of functioning involving the lips, tongue, jaw, and facial muscles.
The tongue has a proper position in the mouth. If something causes the tongue to develop a different resting position and swallow pattern, an OMD will occur.
An OMD may develop at any stage of life as health or environmental factors change. Monitor your family members’ risk factors for developing one and whenever possible:
avoid sippy cups (opt for open or straw cups)
discontinue pacifier use as early as possible
consult with a professional regarding oral habits (thumb-sucking, nail biting, etc.)
seek professional help for chronic nasal congestion/obstruction
If you think you or your child may have an OMD
The first step is booking an assessment to find out if an OMD exists or not, what the cause of it is, and to create a treatment plan, if needed.
Treatment for an OMD is like physiotherapy for the mouth. Muscles involved in tongue rest, chewing, and swallowing are strengthened and the brain gets used to resting, chewing, and swallowing in a new way. Sessions are usually 30 minutes once per week and home practice is required.
At what age does assessment and treatment happen?
An assessment can be helpful at any age. Treatment is usually best done after a child turns 8 years old. There is no upper age limit.
Where is my tongue supposed to be?
Typically a person’s tongue tip rests on the roof of mouth behind upper teeth (not touching). Teeth are slightly apart and lips are together. Breathing is through the nose.
Who treats OMDs?
Speech-language pathologists, dentists, and dental hygienists with advanced training in the area assess and treat OMDs.
Why seek treatment?
Correcting an abnormal tongue rest position and swallow pattern can prevent further negative impacts on related dental and facial development. It can resolve symptoms associated with improper swallowing (indigestion, difficulty eating certain foods/swallowing pills, messy eating), and encourage proper airway maintenance.
Common causes of orofacial myofunctional disorders
Prolonged pacifier use
Frequent/prolonged sippy cup use
Chronic stuffiness/congestion (may be from allergies, asthma, recurrent sinus infection, or other)
Tongue tie (ankyloglossia)
Misaligned teeth/malocclusion (overbite and open bite are especially common)
Orthodontic relapse (used to have braces and now need them again)
‘Mouth-breathing’ during the day and/or at night (lips apart at rest)
☐ Eating with mouth open/noisy eating
Speech distortions (lisp, ‘dentalized’ sounds)
A tongue that rests against teeth and/or rests low in the mouth (this can be hard to determine immediately or without a professional evaluation)
To book an appointment or for further questions
Contact or book online:
Speech-Language Pathologist, M.Sc. SLP (C)
Active member of the International Association of Orofacial Myology