What causes Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder?
The causes of OMDs are multifactorial but the low resting position and function of the tongue are key contributors. These are some:
- Genetic predisposition
- Genetic defects such as craniofacial abnormalities, cleft palate, tongue ties.
- Habits such as non nutritive sucking, including prolonged finger/thumb/object sucking or prolonged use of pacifier and/or bottle.
- Airway obstructions caused by a deviated septum, enlarged adenoids or tonsils, a soft palate that is long, or prolonged congestion due to allergies/sinusitis/asthma.
- Epigenetics, or how environmental factors affect the expression of genes. Bottle fed babies use different muscles to “eat” and this impacts orofacial development. Processed foods also impact this development as our masticatory muscles are being used less and/ or are being used incorrectly. The incorrect habitual use of these muscles can develop into orofacial myofunctional disorders.
The tongue is made up of 8 different muscles that intertwine with one another and are anchored to the bones of the face, to a floating bone on the throat called the hyoid bone and to the collarbone. The base is anchored to the floor of the mouth by a facia, or connective tissue.
The functions include breathing, sleeping, mastication, taste, production of speech and sound. It also impacts the growth and development of the dental arches and development of the airway and orofacial complex.
The ideal resting position of the tongue is at the roof of the mouth, the tip touching “the spot” and the middle and posterior sections also rest up to the palate. This position has a great impact in the craniofacial formation, stability and function from the embryonic stage of life to adulthood.
Ankylogossia, tethered tongue or tongue tie, occurs when the frenum does not dissolve properly during embryonic development. This restriction prevents normal tongue mobility, tone and function as the tongue is forced to sit on the bottom of the floor. Habits such as finger/thumb sucking and airway problems such as asthma and chronic congestion can also contribute to low resting tongue posture.