Myofunctional therapy

Have you been told that you, or your child, have an oral myofunctional disorder, or OMD? Like many people, this probably comes as a surprise, and chances are you have never heard of this condition and are unsure what this may mean. OMD refers to a pattern that involves the oral and orofacial muscles in the face that are interfering with normal growth, development, or function of the face and jaw. OMD may also be referred to as tongue thrust, deviate swallow, or reverse swallow.

What is tongue thrust, deviate swallow, and reverse swallow?

Tongue thrust, reverse swallow, and deviate swallow all represent the same condition – an atypical swallow in which the tongue moves forward and/or sideways in an exaggerated way during speech and/or swallowing. At rest, the tongue is usually carried low and forward in the mouth.

When born, babies use a reversed swallow to protect their airway. However, around the ages of 5 to 7, the child will develop a more efficient pattern. If the child continues to use a reverse swallow, he/she may be diagnosed with OMD.

Specific signs of tongue thrust include:

  • Unwanted oral habits (thumb/finger sucking, lip biting/ licking, teeth clenching and grinding)
  • Messy eating
  • Tongue visible at the front of the mouth or between the teeth during the swallow
  • Tongue rests on the bottom lip
  • Tongue more visible at the front of the mouth during speech
  • Immature loss of teeth
  • Prolonged bottle feeding or sippy-cup use
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Allergies
  • Enlarged tonsils and adenoids
  • Family heredity

Compared to a normal swallow:

  • Teeth and lips are sealed, relaxed and firm
  • The tongue tip presses up on the roof of the mouth (on the hard palate- the “bumpy” section)
  • The front of the tongue slopes downward to push food into the throat
  • A negative intra-oral pressure forces the tongue into a wave-like motion when swallowing

What are the consequences of being diagnosed with OMD?

The average person swallows between 1,500-2,000 times a day, and the tongue puts forth pressures of 1 to 6 pounds on the oral structures. The recurrence of these poor habits and/or tongue thrusting can cause:

  • Possible relapse of orthodontic treatment
  • Speech problems
  • Periodontal problems
  • Unpleasant chewing and eating appearance
  • Soreness of the tongue and teeth
  • Temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ)
  • Headaches
  • Breathing problems
  • Allergies

What can I do?

Although you cannot self-diagnose a tongue thrust, there are still options that will help with the development and strengthening of the oral motor muscles. We do recommend however, that if you or your child shows the signs of having tongue thrust that you seek out a speech-language pathologist or an oral motor therapist for their expertise, as a more specific and appropriate treatment program can be provided.

When Dr. Oltjen detects these habits, he will refer you to Mr. John Brooks for Myofunctional Therapy (tongue, lip, and swallow training). Initial consultations take approximately 20 minutes and additional visits approximately 10 minutes each. We offer this service free of charge as a benefit to our patients.

Meet the OMD Specialists

Mr. John Brooks

Mr. John Brooks has worked with patients as a Myofunctional Therapist for more than 40 years. He has a Master’s Degree from Wichita State University. In addition to his many contributions to our practice, John has also followed a career in Public School Administration. We are very fortunate to be able to offer the skills of such an experienced and talented professional to you, free of charge.