Feeding, early childhood habits and the origin of OMDs
Myofunctional disorders may affect the growth and development of your child. Correct orofacial muscle function at an early age plays an important role in optimal growth and development of the jaw, face, and airway. Proper oral resting tongue posture is very important as the tongue provides internal support and guidance for upper jaw development, which in turn helps guide the development of the lower jaw. The tongue is the natural expander and retainer for the roof of the mouth (palate), which is also the floor of the nasal cavity. A low resting tongue can lead to a downward growth of the upper jaw and a high narrow V-shaped palate, which causes a reduction in the size of the nasal cavity and sinuses making nasal breathing increasingly difficult.
The development of the swallowing system begins around 16-20 weeks in utero and any dysfunctional swallowing can be seen once breastfeeding begins. Breastfeeding has many benefits beyond nutrition. It helps to shape the palate, helps guide jaw and facial growth, and helps with muscle coordination of the tongue, lips and cheeks as the nipple adapts to the shape of the mouth and the baby compresses the nipple onto the palate in a wave like motion. Prolonged bottle feeding encourages a dysfunctional swallowing pattern, open mouth posture, and low resting tongue posture. With bottle feeding, the tongue needs to rest low to make space for the bottle nipple. The cheeks create an inward pressure pushing on the upper teeth, while the tongue creates an outward pressure pushing on the lower teeth leading to a v-shaped palate, crowding, malocclusion, and muscle dysfunction. The tongue motion learned during breastfeeding and/or bottle feeding is continued into adult life.
U-Shaped Palate - Ideal Palate Formation
High Narrow V-Shaped Palate
Oral habits, such as thumb/finger sucking, prolonged pacifier use, and nail biting, also promote a low resting tongue posture. The impact of the oral habit will depend on the intensity, frequency, and duration of the activity. Babies and children use sucking for comfort and to soothe themselves, however these habits after 12-18 months of age can become addictive behaviour. Jaw and facial development occurs most rapidly between the ages of 2 and 5 and by the age of 5, the growth of a child's face and jaw is 70% complete. Addressing any muscle dysfunction as early on as possible is the key to preventing future symptoms associated with myofunctional disorders.