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Oral Motor Therapy


  • Oral Motor functioning is the area of assessment which looks at the normal and abnormal patterns of the lips, tongue, jaw and cheeks and for eating, drinking, facial expression and speech
  • It determines
    • which skills a patient has to build on
    • which abnormal patterns need to be inhibited
    • which patterns need to be compensated
  • Impairments addressed by Oral-Motor Therapy:
    • Poor feeding
    • drooling
    • oral hypersensitivity (gagging and toothbrushing difficulty)
    • tooth grinding (bruxism) due to abnormal muscle tone
    • swallowing difficulties

Additional Resources:

Oral Motor Therapy involves the use of strategies that prepare the oral muscle area for function. Evaluation of oral motor functioning looks at the normal and abnormal patterns of movements of the lips, tongue, jaw and cheeks for eating, drinking, facial expressions and speech.

In the 1950's and '60's, oral motor strategies mostly include stimulation techniques. Examples are brushing (pressure massage), icing (thermal stimulation), quick stretch (tapping), and vibration (manual and mechanical). Although these strategies help in preparing the oral muscles for use, they require additional muscle movement each time a specific muscle is being stimulated.

Later, it was realized that these techniques do not apply to all types of patients with oral motor impairment. Many individuals with impaired oral motor skills are not able to follow a command for oral movement. In 1975, Debra Beckman developed a protocol that targets oral muscle contractions through assisted movements and oral muscle strength training through resisted movements. The protocol includes strategies that improves functional response to pressure and movement, range, strength, variety and control of movement for the lips, cheeks, jaw and tongue.

Implications of Poor Oral Motor Skills

Development delays or deficits in the areas listed below can result from poor oral motor skills. Individuals with poor oral motor control are usually hypersensitive, lazy talkers or picky or messy eaters. Drooling, bruxism (tooth grinding) and gagging may also be observed as problems.

  • Basic functions during sleep
    • Control of secretions
    • Swallowing,
    • Maintaining alignment of the oral structures for proper and continuous breathing
  • Basic survival reflexes/skills for infants
    • sucking
    • swallowing
  • Progressions or Transitions
    • from breast milk or formula
    • then to pureed foods,
    • and on to table foods
    • from sucking a nipple
    • to manipulation of different utensils such as straws, cups, spoons, and forks
  • speech control development
    • from producing the cooing sounds as an infant,
    • to articulation of complex words for conversational speech

SUMMARY of Benefits:

  • improves range of specific oral muscles
  • improves strength of specific oral muscles
  • general improvement on function of oral muscles

Typical Impairments Addressed by Oral-Motor Therapy

  • Drooling
  • Oral hypersensitivity (gagging and toothbrushing difficulty)
  • Poor feeding
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Tooth grinding (bruxism) due to abnormal muscle tone,

Assessment plays a vital role in determining appropriate strategies to address specific oral motor deficits. Our professionals are well equipped to perform oral motor skills evaluation as they have received good training abroad.

  • The evaluation determines
    • which skills a patient has to build on
    • which abnormal patterns need to be inhibited
    • which patterns need to be compensated

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