What Is Oromandibular Dystonia?

You may not have heard of oromandibular dystonia (OMD) before, perhaps because it's a very rare condition. Here's more about it.

What Is Oromandibular Dystonia (OMD)?

OMD is a rare disorder that causes uncontrollable tonic muscle contractions in the face, jaws and tongue. The contractions can happen during jaw opening or closing, and with tongue movement, explains the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation. The end result can be facial-deforming movements and difficulty chewing and speaking.

Other parts of the body can experience similar contractions of muscles, resulting in awkward body positions. The diagnosis of OMD is given when only the facial region is affected. It is classified as primary if it is inherited or not associated with another disease or condition. Secondary OMD is associated with another disease like Parkinson's, and the etiology is usually idiopathic or unknown.

Prevalence of Oromandibular Dystonia (OMD)

This disorder is very rare. Overall, about three people out of every million have OMD, according to a report in Seminars in Speech and Language. The patient is usually in the age range of 40 to 86, with the mean age of 66, and women are four times more likely than men to develop OMD.

Symptoms and Effects of Oromandibular Dystonia (OMD)

The uncontrollable contractions and movements of this disorder can lead to many side effects. Speech difficulties, eating problems, swallowing issues and dental problems are possible, as well as depression and other psychological impacts. Associated dental issues include:

Treatment for Oromandibular Dystonia (OMD)

There is no ideal treatment for oromandibular dystonia, but a few approaches can help to alleviate symptoms. A dental bite block is often used to create jaw stability. Positioning a block between the upper and lower jaw holds them in a better position to control the involuntary muscle contractions. Neurosurgery is also sometimes recommended to affect the area of the brain associated with the dystonia.

Medications like trihexyphenidyl, diazepam and clozapine can also help control the disorder, but only to a modest level. The most promising treatment available is the use of Botox injections (the toxin botulinum) to paralyze the muscles creating the dystonia.

From diagnosis through treatment, oromandibular dystonia can be a challenge, and it takes a team of physicians, speech pathologists and dentists working together to help improve a patient's quality of life.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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