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The Academy of Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (AOMT) defines orofacial myofunctional disorders, or OMDs, as, “disorders of the muscles and functions of the face and mouth [which] may affect, directly and/or indirectly, breastfeeding, facial skeletal growth and development, chewing, swallowing, speech, occlusion, temporomandibular joint movement, oral hygiene, stability of orthodontic treatment, facial esthetics, and more.” (1)
As you can probably tell from the broad nature of that definition, there are many OMDs, and they affect those who suffer from them in a variety of ways and in many different parts of the body. This is because not only are the mouth, face, jaw, and airway deeply interconnected and interdependent systems, but they are all critically important structures as well. When things go wrong in this area, the consequences can sometimes be severe and far reaching.
One of the difficulties with OMDs is that they oftentimes go undiagnosed. Many disorders of the mouth, jaw, and airway can be difficult or impossible for the patient to notice. They notice the symptoms they’re suffering, but the cause remains undetectable. One such disorder is obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. In people who suffer from OSA, the tongue or muscles of the throat chronically block the airway during sleep, causing momentary disruptions in the patient’s sleep throughout the night. This is often due to improper resting posture of the tongue or the muscles of the throat. Unfortunately, these disruptions – called apneas, from the Greek apnous, meaning “breathless” – are so short the patient never regains full consciousness, and therefore doesn’t remember them happening. They only feel the symptoms: drowsiness, not feeling rested even after a full night’s sleep, inattention, poor memory, dry mouth, sore throat, headaches, irritability, and more.
Check back soon for The importance of diagnosing and treating OMDs, part 2. In the meantime, check out our page on treatment of OMDs.