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What are Oral Motor Skills?

Oral motor exercises focus on strengthening and improving the coordination of muscles

in the mouth, jaw, lips, tongue, and cheeks needed for eating, swallowing, and producing speech. In occupational therapy, improving oral motor skills helps clients to eat and drink more effectively. Children who struggle with feeding may not be able to control their mouth which could result in gagging and dislike of certain foods. 

Common signs a child has poor control of their mouth: 

● Drooling - bottom lip stays open most of the time 

● Difficulty swallowing 

● Picky/messy eater 

● Difficulty brushing teeth 

Exercises to Improve Mouth Control at Home: 

● Use Chewy tubes 

- Strengthens jaw muscles and develops biting and chewing skills 

- Follow this link to purchase a Chewy tube: 

● Blow bubbles 

Use an electric toothbrush 

- Bring the brush to each side of the mouth and tongue 

● Use a Z-Vibe 

- Z-Vibes help to wake up the mouth and reduce sensitivity 

- Follow this link to purchase a Z-vibe: 

Play with spoons and forks (utensils) 

- Make it fun with messy eating! 

If your child is experiencing difficulties with eating or drinking, talk to an occupational therapist (OT). An OT can help collaborate with you and your child to create an environment that promotes safe eating habits with skilled interventions, equipment, and education. 

Consider reading more about oral motor skills with these evidence-based resources. 


Siğan, S. N., Uzunhan, T. A., Aydinli, N., Eraslan, E., Ekici, B., & Calişkan, M. (2013). Effects of oral motor therapy in children with cerebral palsy. Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology, 16(3), 342-346. doi: 10.4103/0972-2327.116923

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