Orofacial myofunctional therapy, or OMT, is becoming more prominent as of late. Striving to re-educate the oral facial muscles through neuromuscular treatments, OMT not only promotes stability of the stomatognathic system but can also be a vital tool for ensuring normal childhood development.
If a child’s tongue rests in an improper posture, this can have a deleterious effect on the maturation and development of the oral cavity. This issue can cause a host of problems, ranging from lack of support of upper airways, instability of the temporomandibular joint, or hinder the development of optimal dental arches.
Children today are at greater risk of developing an orofacial myofunctional disorder (OMD). Why? In the past, a baby’s tongue was checked immediately to see if he or she would be able to breastfeed without difficulty. Given the modern proliferation of bottle-feeding, a restricted lingual frenum can be overlooked without realizing the possible detrimental effects.
A restricted lingual frenum can affect the resting posture of the tongue, but also disrupts the tongue muscles and hinders normal functions. A lingual frenectomy may be needed to restore full mobility. Once that procedure has taken place, an OMT specialist then adjusts any current or possible posture issues through behavior modification. The goals are to make the patient aware of any noxious habits and eliminate them, thus fostering nasal breathing, lip seal, and proper mastication.
Ideally, any restricted lingual frenum is released at birth or as close to it as possible, since the tongue naturally achieves optimal function through breastfeeding. In fact, the act of breastfeeding promotes optimal muscle function throughout the entire orofacial complex.
The prominence of OMT is on the rise. According to an article on the Academy of Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy’s official website (www.aomtinfo.org), the number of searches for “myofunctional therapy” on Google increased sevenfold from 2011 to 2012. Dentists and physicians together can help identify these issues in babies and children, and with early intervention and collaborative efforts, can help improve children’s development.
Moeller, J.L. (2015). If not now, when?. Retrieved from https://aomtinfo.org/portfolio-item/orofacial-myofunctional-therapy-why-now