As a speech-language pathologist and trained orofacial myologist through the International Association of Orofacial Myology, the need for knowledge and expertise in orofacial development is in great demand. (oro = mouth, facial = face, myology = study of muscles). Parents are in need now, more than ever, of experts who can identify if and when their child is in need of orofacial myology.

The thing is, true orofacial myofunctional therapy (OMT)  is deemed appropriate for children four years-old and over. (More on OMT for teens and adults in another post!) 

Why is this? Children require the ability to participate in volitional, active exercises for OMT to be effective. When you have infants and toddlers demonstrating orofacial myofunctional disorders, (OMDs)  the therapy is not OMT, rather building on pre-feeding and feeding skills in which we emphasize and facilitate passive movements for orofacial development.

Why do we need our patients to be able to actively participate in these exercises? The ultimate goal is adequate rest position for function. This means the tongue is resting on the roof of the mouth, teeth are approximated, lips are closed, and your child is breathing through their nose.

Let’s talk about those four-years-old and older.  Here are three major characteristics of an OMDI look for during an evaluation!

  • Your child is hanging onto that binky or those fingers for dear life
    • Extended pacifier or digit sucking  can encourage low tongue position, high palate, and malocclusion. All of this contributes to possible dysfunction of breathing, feeding, swallowing, sleep, and speech. 
  • Your child is a mouth breather
    • If your child is breathing through their mouth, there could be occlusion in the nasal passageway, enlargement of tonsils/ adenoids, low sitting tongue, tongue tie, and difficulty with sleep.
  • Tongue thrusting/lisping/lateralizing during speech
    • A tongue thrust means the tongue is not resting on the roof of the mouth as it should be. The tongue is “thrusting” through or toward the bottom teeth in a low, sitting position. Sometimes this is due to a tongue tie, extended pacifier/digit sucking,  or low tone. This can result in malocclusion, reverse swallow, mouth breathing, and interdental /s/ among other sounds that are typically produced behind the top teeth. 

Examples of speech errors:

Lisping: “thand” for sand, “buth” for bus

Lateralization: “shand/chand” for sand, “mesh/mech” for (a slushy sound from the side of the mouth) 

Do you recognize these signs in your child? An orofacial myofunctional evaluation may be warranted to evaluate how the tongue, lips, jaw, teeth, etc. are built and appear (structure) AND how the mouth is working (function). Reach out today with your questions!