Myofunctional Disorders

This is a disorder in which the tongue is resting in the wrong place in the mouth.  Individuals who have a history of breathing problems due to allergies, asthma or chronic nasal congestion may need to keep their mouth open at rest in order to breathe.  This can cause the tongue to move to a low and forward position in the mouth.

A myofunctional disorder can be caused by tongue or lip tie.

A myofunctional disorder is also correlated with snoring, sleep apnea, dental maloclussions, enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Once again, the tongue is not in its optimal rest position (up along the hard palate) because the individual needs “freeway space” in order to breathe.

In a myofuctional disorder, the lips and chin muscle (mentalis), rather than the tongue, get active during a wet swallow.  Subtle speech errors, such as frontal distortions of the tongue tip sounds /t, d, n, l, s/ can be seen as the individual pushes his tongue tip to the front or sides rather than up to the palate to produce those sounds.

Myofunctional disorders often need medical treatment (such as surgical repair of a tongue or lip ties, tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, allergy medications, orthodontia) in conjunction with therapy.  In myofunctional therapy, a therapist will teach the individual a series of exercises in order to strengthen the lips and tongue for proper movement during speech and swallow. This is an area of active and ongoing scientific research. Research has demonstrated that these exercises are effective.

Not all SLP’s are trained myofunctional therapists.  However any SLP should be able to identify anatomical differences that may be contributing to poor speech.

 

Tips for families:

Evaluating and treating a myofunctional disorder is always a team approach. Team members may include:

  • Pediatrician

  • Pediatric Dentist

  • Allergist

  • ENT

  • Oral surgeon

  • Myofunctional therapist

  • SLP

  • Dental hygienist