It's called Orofacial Myology (or Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy); such a mouthful, yikes! It's the field of study dedicated to the treatment of any atypical patterns of the Orofacial muscles that interfere with normal growth, development and function.
If you think about it, the muscles in the mouth, neck, head (The Orofacial Complex) affect our day to day activities. They play an amazing role in life-sustaining tasks, such as eating, drinking and breathing. They allow us to express emotion, speak, sing and smile. These muscles also play an essential role in our growth and development, as well as in our dental and airway health. In fact, the function of these muscles can determine whether or not we have straight, healthy teeth and large, healthy sinuses.
Trained orofacial myologists help people use the muscles of their face and mouth to breathe, chew and swallow in a functionally correct and healthy way.
A lot of the families that walk through my door are bringing their child to treat a symptom: speech (articulation), feeding issues (picky eater, difficulty chewing), among other concerns. It's my job to look at the underlying cause and figure out how to help them. Since I started intensive training in the area of Orofacial Myology, I've been able to look at these concerns with new "myo eyes" and see how much I may have missed previously. Traditional speech therapy does not address this area, unfortunately. In fact, it's a bit controversial in the SLP world. (Oh, the drama!)
When people ask me more about OMT (orofacial myofunctional therapy) or OMDs (Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders), I get all excited and start spewing waaayyy to much info. As the listener's eyes glaze over, I realize I've overdone it, again. My family and friends have become accustomed to me analyzing their mouths, watching them eat, observing their children. Luckily one of my friends didn't get too weirded out when I grabbed her chin in the middle of church, peered in her mouth, and asked why she suddenly had a lisp! It was a new retainer, if you're wondering. I can't help it! It's fascinating how different our mouths can be and how much pain someone might be in, all because they have a tongue-tie or some other sort of OMD.
We often see other signs of OMDs manifest themselves in jaw pain, sleep apnea, speech, chewing, swallowing, neck pain/tension, headaches. Yikes! It's like a little mystery that I get to help unfold with the help of dental professionals, ENTs, and MDs.
My part is to work with a team to figure out causes of OMDs and then help train the tongue and lips to function accurately. Who would have thought being an SLP would have brought me here? It's so cool!
I'll be posting more about this area. You too might start uncovering your mystery! #orofacialmyology