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The prefix, "myo" stands for muscle. Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders involve behaviours and patterns created by inappropriate muscle functional and incorrect habits involving the tongue, lips, jaw and face. Of the many possible myofunctional variations, those involving the tongue and lips receive the most attention. A tongue thrust is the most common orofacial myofunctional variation. During the act of swallowing, (deglutition), and/or during rest posture, an incorrect positioning of the tongue may contribute to improper orofacial development and maintenance of the malalignment of the teeth.

An orofacial variation that relates to the lips is an open mouth, lips apart resting posture. This is often referred to lip incompetence and can distract from a pleasing facial appearance.

What Causes an Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder?

Often it is difficult to point to one particular source as the sole cause of an orofacial myofunctional 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, cheek/nail biting, tooth clenching/grinding.
• Restricted nasal airway: due to enlarged tonsils/adenoids and/or allergies.
• Structural or physiological abnormalities such as a short lingual frenum (tongue-tie) or abnormally large tongue.
• Neurological or developmental abnormalities.
• Hereditary predisposition to some of the above factors.

Why Be Concerned?

Orofacial myofunctional disorders may have a negative effect on the development of the dentition, particularly dental eruption patterns and/or alignment of the teeth and jaws. Speech patterns may become distorted or misarticulated. Para functional habit patterns may have a negative influence on the 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 more desirable and a healthier oral environment.

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