Dental hygienist chronicles her journey into orofacial myofunctional therapy

May 23, 2018
Chris Zombek, BSDH, COM, outlines her strategy as a dental hygienist to enter the field or orofacial myofunctional therapy.

By Chris Zombek, BSDH, COM

My personal journey as a RDH, COM (certified orofacial myologist) started back in 2014. Reading my RDH magazine as I always do, and taking a peek in the back to see what job listings were new, I came across an ad about becoming an orofacial myofunctional therapist.

I found myself spending many hours on the computer researching where to obtain the schooling and how much it would cost. It was very overwhelming to decide which course to take. While researching I found out that you could become certified only through the International Association of Orofacial Myology (IAOM).

The IAOM, which incorporates dentists, speech language pathologists, and dental hygienists, originally formed in 1971 by four speech language pathologists. They observed that dental hygienists possessed the education that would really complement orofacial myofunctional therapy.

I took my first 28-hour introductory course in January 2014 through the IAOM. In September 2015, I became certified during a yearlong process that included a written exam and an observation of patient therapy by a IAOM board examiner. One of the many amazing things about the IAOM that differentiates it from other associations is that they have camaraderie of seasoned members that offer mentorship to help with the certification process.

There have been highlights and challenges along the way to becoming a certified orofacial myofunctional therapist.

Some of the highlights have been educating and guiding patients to the specialist that can help aid them for a better quality of life. Owning my own business allows me to be in control of my schedule. Additionally, there’s the appreciation from doctors you work with to gain patient health. The certification has validated with my patients; I have the knowledge to offer the best therapy.

A business as an OM therapist

However, in becoming a business owner, there are many things to learn:

  • How to set up your business, and under what type of tax model
  • What to charge for your services, because in most states you cannot bill insurance as a RDH
  • Determining if you are going to work under a general dentist, a dental specialist, or out of your own office
  • What protocol are you going to use for patient therapy and scheduling

Setting up time to write reports can be time consuming. There can also be learning curves in setting up a website and a FB professional page. Going out to area specialists to establish a team approach and referral base. This includes not only referrals but also for calibration of thoughts on tonsil and adenoid removal as well as lingual and labial frenectomies which can be contributing factors to orofacial myofunctional disorders.

Despite the many challenges of having my own business, I am proud to be certified as a orofacial myofunctional therapist. The work has empowered me to understand the importance of orofacial myofunctional disorders and the impact on the dental malocclusions, swallowing, and airway health. Getting uncomfortable has allowed me to grow as a professional and create a more fulfilling career. Believe that you create your own dreams. What are you waiting for, follow you passion and live the life you love.

Chris Zombek, BSDH, COM, is the owner of Innovative Myofunctional Therapy of Maryland in Westminister, Md. She obtained her dental hygiene degree from the University of Maryland at Baltimore in 2001. She can be contacted at [email protected].