There are many medical and health issues that exist in childhood that go away as the child grows into an adult. As a small human grows into an adult, their body shifts and fills out until it’s the right shape. Things like fallen arches can be fixed with proper shoes if worn during childhood. And that’s just one example.
OMD, which is the short acronym for Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders, is a term referring to one of several issues that affect a child in a similar way. When a child’s tongue, jaw, or upper/lower lip is positioned incorrectly when resting, it can affect a child’s speech pattern.
That said, not every improper speech pattern is a sign of OMD. Nor is an ill-positioned lip or tongue. These are things that many children grow out of as they get older. So what are some of the symptoms of OMD and how does it get diagnosed?
How To Spot OMD As A Parent
As a parent, it can be excruciating to pay attention for signs of OMD. This is because many common childhood speech problems are just that. Childhood speech problems. For example, many children pronounce the “S” sound as a “Th”, saying “thumb” instead of “some”, as an example. This could be a sign of OMD, or it could just be a sign that the child is young and needs more practice speaking.
There are other speech patterns that have the same problem. A “Z” or “S” sound might come out as a “Ch” sound, turning “some” into “chum”. Because these issues are so common, it’s best to simply make a dental appointment if you’re worried and allow the professionals to deal with it.
How Doctors Diagnose OMD
Dentists, physicians, orthodontists, and even speech pattern specialists will generally have the tools necessary to diagnose OMD. This generally involves checking soft-muscle tissue pressure against the teeth and gums. A doctor will also check to ensure the tongue isn’t blocking the airway to the lungs.
It’s only when there’s a major problem that surgery is used to treat OMD. In general, treatment involves speech training.
Things To Watch With Caution
OMD can be caused or aggravated by childhood issues, as well. For example, if a child has allergies then they might develop OMD due to mouth-breathing. The blocked nasal passageways simply causes them to leave their tongue or lips lay resting more often, which leads to muscle atrophy.
Similarly, prolonged thumb sucking can sometimes cause OMD. This doesn’t mean you should immediately try to keep your child from thumb sucking. Just that you should keep an eye on it.
And unfortunately, OMD is sometimes just a matter of family genetics. There’s not much to be done in that case, there’s no “cause” other than simple happenstance.
OMD can cause children major problems in life, as verbal communication is one of the cornerstones upon which human society is built. Luckily, it’s the kind of problem that can generally be dealt with via speech classes. These are generally easy to find, often times even being offered by a child’s school district.