What is Orofacial Myology?
‘Orofacial myology’ (also known as ‘OMT’) is a particular type of assessment and therapy in that Australian speech pathologists have the option to undertake additional training.
The term means: “the study and treatment of the oral and facial muscles as they relate to speech, dentition, chewing/bolus collection, swallowing, and overall mental and physical health”.
Internationally, orofacial myology is becoming increasingly recognised for its far-reaching health benefits. The approach is being adopted by speech pathologists and dentists, orthodontists, GPs and more. Read on to find out more about orofacial myology and how it can help you or your child.
Why is orofacial myology important?
The impacts of less-than-optimal oral function can include difficulty sleeping, poor breathing habits, difficulty regulating behaviour and maintaining focus, dietary restriction, poor dentition, poor posture, jaw discomfort and speech sound errors. While Speech Pathologists are mainly concerned with speech clarity, feeding and swallowing, providing myofunctional therapy as part of a holistic care team can lead to improvements in many areas.
The main reason for this is that the same parts of the mouth: the lips, teeth, tongue, jaw, airway and posture, that are used for eating and talking can also impact other bodily functions. And Speech Pathologists are experts in these parts of the body!
Using an orofacial myology approach, the Speech Pathologist can consider whether there is an underlying difficulty with the structure or function of the mouth and face that may be contributing to difficulties with talking or feeding. They can also determine whether other health professionals who are also experts in this field may be required to assist with treatment.
Not every Speech Pathologist can assess and treat using an orofacial myology approach. While every Speech Pathologist has expertise in the areas of the face and mouth, extra training is required to be able to deliver orofacial myology services.
Who can benefit from orofacial myology?
Most people accessing Speech Pathology services do not initially seek this assessment and treatment. However, during the initial interview, a trained Speech Pathologist will be asking questions to determine whether or not this type of treatment would be of benefit. Some signs that investigating oral function may be of benefit are:
· difficulty with speech sounds or coordinating speech
· difficulty singing or using the voice
· difficulty with chewing and swallowing more challenging textures of food, such as steak
· mouth breathing – either during the day or at night
· difficulty sleeping
· forward head or shoulder posture
· oral habits such as thumb sucking or nail biting
· babies and mothers that have difficulty with breastfeeding
· orthodontics has been recommended
What does an assessment look like?
At your initial consultation, the Speech Pathologist will ask general questions about your health background and current concerns. Following this interview, the Speech Pathologist may recommend a specific orofacial myofunction assessment if they believe it would be beneficial. If this is the case, the Speech Pathologist will:
· undertake a detailed and specific interview with you regarding early feeding history (as an infant), current eating habits and preferences, sleeping, behaviour, breathing and oral habits
· do a physical examination of the posture, face and mouth
· ask the client to perform specific movements with the tongue, lips, jaw and breathing
· take measurements of the different dimensions in the mouth
· provide a speaking task to identify any articulation errors in the speech
What does therapy look like?
Depending on the assessment's findings, the Speech Pathologist may recommend undergoing a treatment protocol. This involves undertaking a daily oral exercise program to strengthen and improve the coordination of the muscles of the face and mouth.
This program is overseen by the Speech Pathologist during regular weekly sessions and is usually used in conjunction with approaches designed to retrain speech patterns or make eating and swallowing safe.
While Speech Pathologists have expertise in the face, mouth, teeth, jaw and tongue, they can’t take the place of other professionals working in this area. In fact, the preferred method for working in this area is as part of a team, all working together to treat oral function. Your Speech Pathologist may recommend that you see a doctor, dentist, orthodontist, ENT, chiropractor or osteopath to also assist with treatment.
What are the potential benefits?
As well as improving the outcomes of Speech Pathology interventions that target clear speech and voice production and improved feeding and swallowing (including infants); myofunctional therapy delivered by a trained team can also reduce sleep-disordered breathing, reduce headaches, reduce shoulder, jaw and neck pain and reduce the time required for orthodontic treatment.
If you would like to find out more about whether orofacial myology would benefit your or your child, please contact us on 1300 086 280 or at [email protected] to book an initial consultation with a Speech Pathologist from our team.