What is an Orofacial Myology Disorder?

The prefix “myo” stands for muscle.

Orofacial Myology is the treatment of the orofacial musculature to improve muscle tonicity and establish correct functional activities of the tongue, lips, and mandible. The treatment is recommended so that normal growth and development can take place or progress in a stable, homeostatic environment. Of the many possible myofunctional variations, this involving the tongue and lips receive the most attention. A tongue thrust is the most common orofacial myofunctional variation


What causes an Orofacial Myology Disorder

Often it is difficult to point to one particular source as the sole cause of an orofacial disorder. In most cases it is the result of a combination of factors. Many authorities suggest that orofacial myofunctional disorders may result from the following:

  • Improper oral habits such as thumb or finger sucking, prolonged use of pacifiers, cheek/nail biting, tooth clenching/grinding.
  • Restricted nasal airway due to enlarged tonsils/adenoids and/or allergies.
  • Structural or physiological abnormalities such as short lingual frenum (tongue-tie).
  • Neurological or developmental abnormalities.
  • Hereditary predisposition to some of the above factors.


Why be Concerned

Orofacial myology disorders may have a negative effect in the development of the dentition, particularly dental eruption patterns and/or alignment of the teeth and jaws. Speech patterns may become imprecise or misarticulated. Oral habit patterns may have a negative influence on the normal functioning of the temporomandibular joint. Correcting or improving resting tongue or lip relationships can be instrumental in aiding the development of normal patterns of dental eruption and alignment.


Myofunctional therapy for tongue thrusting and lip incompetence may be recommended for a variety of functional or cosmetic reasons. If the  patient already has orthodontic appliances, correcting the myofunctional disorder can help stabilize the orthodontic result by creating a healthier desirable, oral environment.


Therapy programs are designed to retrain patterns of muscle function and to aid in the creation and maintenance of a healthy, adaptive orofacial environment. This can help in the retention of the orthodontic treatment, can help enhance one’s appearance, and can help maintain optimal dental health for a lifetime of benefits.


At What Age Should Therapy Begin?

There are many diagnostic criteria that must be considered. The age of the patient is not as important as his/her motivation to succeed. Children as young as four years old can benefit from a diagnostic session to determine if any preventative steps may be prescribed. Children of seven or eight years of age are often mature enough to receive complete training. Adults of all ages are capable of success in treatment.


Is Treatment Effective?

Many recent scientific studies have shown that treatment for orofacial myofunctional disorders can be 80-90% effective in correcting swallowing and rest posture function and that these corrections are retained years after completing therapy (Hahn & Hahn, 1992). Although there are many factors that contribute to the success of the therapy program, cooperation is considered the essential factor. A team effort is essential to success.