Oral motor control difficulties:
* tongue thrusting and eating behavior, which can cause dental problems.
* Chronic mouth breathing
* Weak lip and tongue motor control
* Thumb or finger sucking
* Lip sucking
* Nail biting
The abovementioned behaviors are called deviant oral motor behaviors. They consist of movements or movement patterns in the mouth that have a negative effect on the teeth, speech, ears and general health. These behaviors can elicit or maintain each other.
They can cause “bad bites” (malocclusion) and lead to speech problems. The muscles in the jaw and lips also affect the teeth that are on their way of breaking through or already have broken through.
what is immature swallowing?
Also called tongue thrusting, can be a foljd of chronic mouth breathing, but it can also exist when the child is breathing through the nose. The tongue is often lying low in the mouth and is pressured in between the teeth. In speech, the tongue thrust pattern mostly affects the /s/, which is called lisping.
The teeth are affected and the orthodontist might give the child a dental treatment, but that will only help as long as it is in the mouth. If the behavior isn’t changed, the teeth will relapse and undo the whole treatment.
Chronic Mouth breathing
Chronic mouth breathing is the habit of not closing the jaws and lips during rest, and breathing through the mouth, rather than the nose. Most people breathe through their noses normally. But when they are having a cold or an allergic reaction they might breathe trough the mouth temporarily. If that behavior persists, even after the cold has disappeared it is called chronic. The mouth muscles become weaker (together with the intercostal muscles. Other causes can be an obstruction in the nose or big tonsils. Then, the mouth is simply open to get enough air.
There are several consequenses:
-the mouth dries out
-less saliva that will cause…
-dried out gums and bigger risk for caries
-less swallowing which causes…
-the eustachian tube to be cleared less often which causes…
-a bigger risk for ear inflammations and other health problems.
other mouth behaviors
Another unwanted mouth behavior is sucking on a pacifier, fingers, lips or thumbs. It is normal for infants and toddlers to suck on a pacifier, thumb or fingers, because they still have a big need for sucking. It gives them a feeling of safety. Later on, this can become an unwanted behavior which causes teeth to misalign or change the form of the palate. It also increases the chances of weak oral motor control that in its turn could cause an immature swallowing pattern. That’s why it is important for the child to stop this behavior as fast as possible.
Nail biting puts a big pressure on the jaw joints. It can also cause misalignments of the teeth and later cause pain and a popping sound (TMD).
what does the slp do?
Jessica will give you advice about what kind of treatment is suitable and will adjust it to your child. Children that are mouth breathers will have to learn as fast as possible to breathe through their noses to prevent ear inflammations. This is done by exercises that strengthen the oral muscles and promote nose breathing. Also, a correct tongue position during rest and speech will be trained. Parents will learn to give mouth massage, to gain more mouth awareness for the child in an unconscious way. The child doesn’t need to be active, which is really convenient for younger children. Learning new swallowing patterns can start before or after the new incissors (upper front teeth) have broken trough. It is a good thing to have stopped with sucking on pacifier/thumb/fingers already before that happens, since it negatively affects the development of the teeth.
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