Orofacial Myology & Oral Habit Elimination

“The Thumb Therapist”

Laurie | Orofacial Myologist DerryMeet Laurie, our Orofacial Myologist who specializes with helping patients eliminate non-nutritive sucking habits using postitive behavior modifications. Laurie is a pediatric registered dental hygienist who received orofacial myology training from the International Association of Orofacial Myology (IAOM) where she was inspired to bring her holistic approach back to Haas Dental. She guides and supports her patients through the process until they are free from their habits. Habit cessation programs include but are not limited to: thumb/finger, pacifier and nail biting habits.

What is Orofacial Myology?

Orofacial Myology is “the study and treatment of oral and facial muscles as they relate to speech, dentition, chewing/bolus collection, swallowing, and overall mental and physical health.” (Sandra Holtzman)

In other words, orofacial myologists help people use the muscles of their face and mouth to breathe, chew and swallow in a functionally correct and healthy way.

Orofacial Myology treatment includes exercises to create patterns of muscles function to aid in the creation and maintenance of a healthy, adaptive environment of the face and mouth, and the establishment of correct functional activities of the tongue, lips and mandible.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, orofacial myofunctional disorders are any pattern involving oral and or orofacial musculature that interferes with normal growth, development or function of structures or calls attention to itself.

This includes:

  • Thumb sucking; finger, blanket, pacifier sucking; nail biting
  • Tongue thrust—forward tongue rest posture
  • Abnormal swallowing patterns
  • Abnormal functional breathing patterns
  • Abnormal neuromuscular patterns related to bolus formation, mastication and deglutition
  • Forward head posture
  • Open mouth posture
  • Teeth moving after orthodontics


I Did It!A primary goal of orofacial myofunctional therapy (orofacial myology) is to recapture a normal freeway space dimension (this is the slight space between the upper and lower teeth that should be maintained at rest) by eliminating deleterious sucking habits, repositioning a forward, interdental resting tongue posture, teaching a closed lips nasal breathing posture, retraining and eliminating an incorrect chewing pattern and swallow, or normalizing (opening) a closed dental rest posture.


We currently offer TWO Programs:

Habit Cessation:

  • “The Thumb Therapist” provides step-by-step instructions and support to help patients eliminate the thumb/finger sucking habit
  • The program uses positive behavior management therapy that can:
    1. Increase the patient’s confidence in being able to make decisions that affect his/her own future
    2. For children: offer the opportunity for parents/guardians and the child to work together in a cooperative, nonjudgmental manner to reach an important goal
    3. Eliminate the habit in a holistic way, and avoid punitive and costly habit appliances.
  • The ideal age group for this therapy is 4-12 years old, however, it can be successful with adult patients as well


Therapy uses specialized exercises to establish correct functional activities of the tongue, lips, and jaws. These exercises can eliminate or greatly reduce drooling, lip biting, food chewing problems, open lip resting posture, articulation disorders, and incorrect swallowing patterns.

  • Tongue rest posture
  • Tongue thrust
  • Open mouth rest posture


Referral needed

  • Recent clinical exam by an oral health professional such as a Dentist, Orthodontist or Dental Hygienist may be required
  • It’s essential to identify any conditions that would need to be corrected before any therapy could be successful such as tongue ties, airway issues, or narrow maxillary arches

Benefits for patients of all ages, including adults:

  • Decreases the need for costly orthodontic appliances
  • Assists orthodontists in reducing time and money with traditional braces
  • Results in proper muscle function bringing teeth into a more desirable relationship and stabilizing occlusion
  • Patients gain confidence after completed program, a sense of accomplishment
  • Correcting or improving resting tongue or lip relationships can be instrumental in aiding the development of normal patterns of dental eruption and alignment, or restoring normal processes of orofacial growth and development.
  • Therapy programs are designed to retrain patterns of muscle function and to aid in the creation and maintenance of a healthy, stable orofacial environment.
  • Improves the clarity of speech
  • Enhances one’s appearance
  • Helps to maintain optimum oral health for a lifetime of benefits

Success Rates:

  • Studies have shown that treatment for OMDs (orofacial myofunctional disorders) can be 80-90% effective in correcting swallowing and rest posture functions. These corrections are usually maintained years after completing therapy.

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