How to do an Oral Mechanism Exam

How to do an Oral Mechanism Exam: The Oral Mechanism Exam, often referred to as the Oral Peripheral Mechanism Examination (OPME), is a comprehensive assessment conducted by speech-language pathologists, dentists, and other healthcare professionals. It aims to evaluate the functioning of the oral structures involved in speech production and swallowing. The examination includes the assessment of the lips, tongue, jaw, palate, and other relevant areas to identify any potential abnormalities or impairments.

Table of Content
  1. Purpose of Oral Mechanism Exam
  2. Oral Mechanism Exam Kit
  3. How to do an Oral Mechanism Exam
  4. Assessment of Orofacial Reflexes
  5. Reporting and Interpretation of Oral Mechanism Exam
  6. Oral Mechanism Exam PDF Form
  7. Conclusion
  8. Frequently Asked Questions
  9. References

Purpose of Oral Mechanism Exam

The significance of the Oral Mechanism Exam cannot be overstated. It serves as the foundation for understanding the underlying causes of speech and swallowing difficulties. Identifying oral motor issues early on can lead to timely interventions and appropriate therapies, thereby improving speech clarity, articulation, and overall oral function.

The Oral Peripheral Mechanism Examination is utilized in a variety of settings and has several essential applications:

1. Diagnosing Speech Disorders

By carefully evaluating the oral structures involved in speech, clinicians can diagnose and differentiate between various speech disorders. This enables targeted intervention and therapy planning.

2. Identifying Feeding Difficulties

In infants and children, the examination is valuable for identifying feeding difficulties related to oral motor issues. Early detection and intervention can significantly improve feeding skills and overall growth.

3. Assessing Speech and Swallowing Impairments

Patients with neurological conditions, craniofacial anomalies, or trauma may experience speech and swallowing impairments. The examination helps identify specific areas of dysfunction and guides appropriate treatment.

4. Informing Treatment Plans

Once the oral peripheral mechanism examination is completed, the gathered information guides the development of personalized treatment plans. These plans address the specific needs of each individual, leading to more effective therapy outcomes.

Orofacial Examination goals are to find or rule out anatomical or functional elements that are connected to dysphagia or communication disorders. The information in this section largely relates to the ability to communicate. The clinician will at the very least require disposable gloves, a timer, a tiny flashlight, and as well as a tongue depressor to finish the orofacial examination. Bites that obstruct (dissociate) motions of the tongue and jaw, cotton gauze (used to keep the tongue in place), and an applicator stick. It might also be necessary to use a mirror (to evaluate velopharyngeal movement).

Oral Mechanism Exam Kit

  • All dental equipment should be sterilized.
  • Before and after contact, wash your hands.
  • If there is any contact with mucous membranes, broken skin, or body fluids, use gloves. Gloves should be swiftly removed without touching the outside (turning them inside out as you go) and disposed of carefully. Once the gloves are off, wash your hands.
  • If there is a chance that any bodily fluids will splash or spray, wear eye and mouth protection. If clothing is likely to come into touch with bodily fluids, wear a gown and shoe covers. If blood or bodily fluid from another person gets on you, change your clothes.
  • Never reuse single-use items like gloves, tongue depressors, toothettes, etc.

In place of a tongue depressor or toothette, a sucker can be used to evaluate young children, especially those who are reluctant to cooperate. To evaluate lip and tongue motions, foods like peanut butter or applesauce can be placed in the oral cavity strategically. You should be aware that some kids have food sensitivities. Before giving a food product, make sure to have parental consent.

To protect all parties from potential contact with bodily fluids and infectious objects, precautions should always be taken. To lower a person’s exposure to diseases that are transferred through blood and other bodily fluids, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has established Universal Precautions (UP), which must be observed.

How to do an Oral Mechanism Exam

The Oral Peripheral Mechanism Examination is a comprehensive assessment that involves the evaluation of various components of the oral structures to understand their functioning and identify potential issues. This examination is crucial for diagnosing speech disorders, feeding difficulties, and other oral motor problems. Let’s explore the key components of this examination:

Assessment of Lip Function

The examination begins with evaluating the strength, range of motion, and coordination of the lips. Lip function is crucial for producing sounds like “p,” “b,” and “m.” Any weakness or restriction in lip movement can affect speech clarity and facial expressions.

Lip Closure/Seal: Ask the patient to purse their lips tightly and hold the position to assess lip strength and control.

Mobility of Lip: Instruct the patient to alternately smile and pout to evaluate lip mobility and flexibility.

Rounding of Lip: Have the patient round their lips as if saying “oo” to assess the ability to produce rounded vowel sounds.

Tongue Mobility Evaluation

Next step involves assessing the mobility and coordination of the tongue. The tongue is a key player in speech production, playing a vital role in forming various sounds. Anomalies in tongue movement can result in speech sound distortions and difficulties in chewing and swallowing.

Tongue Movement: Check for the range of tongue movement by having the patient move their tongue from side to side, up and down, and touch the roof of the mouth.

Tongue Strength: Ask the patient to press their tongue against a tongue depressor or the roof of their mouth to evaluate tongue strength.

Tongue Protrusion and Retraction: Have the patient stick their tongue out as far as possible and then retract it into their mouth to assess tongue movement control.

Tongue Lateralization: Assess the patient’s ability to move their tongue to the sides by having them touch the corners of their lips with the tip of their tongue.

Examination of Jaw Stability

Jaw stability is essential for speech articulation and chewing. The examiner will observe the jaw’s range of motion, strength, and stability during various tasks. Issues with jaw movement can lead to speech errors and feeding challenges.

Jaw Strength: Have the patient clench their teeth together and then resist as you try to open their jaw with gentle pressure. This assesses jaw strength.

Jaw Range of Motion: Instruct the patient to open their mouth as wide as possible and then close it. Ask them to move their jaw from side to side to assess jaw mobility.

Cheek Strength and Control: Ask the patient to puff out their cheeks and then pull them in to assess cheek muscle strength and control.

Palate Function Assessment

The palate, or the roof of the mouth, plays a crucial role in speech production and swallowing. The examination will focus on the palate’s movement and closure, as any irregularities can impact speech sounds and cause nasal speech.

Palatal Elevation and Depression: Evaluate the movement of the soft palate (velum) by asking the patient to say “ah” and observing the palate’s ability to rise and fall.

Assessment of Orofacial Reflexes

The examination includes evaluating various orofacial reflexes, such as sucking, biting, and swallowing. Proper reflexes are essential for feeding and speech development in infants and young children.

Observation of Breathing Patterns: Oral breathing patterns can have a significant impact on oral muscle function. The examiner will observe the patient’s breathing patterns and determine if any abnormal breathing habits are affecting oral function.

Phonation Tasks: Have the patient produce various speech sounds, vowels, and consonants to evaluate voice quality, pitch, and resonance.

Articulation Tasks: Ask the patient to articulate specific speech sounds or words to assess articulatory precision and coordination.

Sustained Speech: Request the patient to sustain a vowel sound (e.g., “ee,” “ah”) to observe their ability to maintain vocalization.

Repetitive Speech: Have the patient repeat a series of syllables or words (e.g., “pa-pa-pa,” “ma-ma-ma”) to assess speech fluency and articulatory speed.

Connected Speech: Ask the patient to engage in spontaneous conversation or read a passage to evaluate their speech intelligibility and overall communication.

These speech tasks help assess the patient’s oral motor control, strength, range of motion, and coordination, which are essential for speech production. The results of the examination guide the diagnosis and treatment planning for individuals with speech and communication disorders.

Oral Mechanism Exam Report

Understanding the anatomical, physiological, and neurologic underpinnings of the orofacial structures and their functions is necessary for the valid interpretation of results from an orofacial examination. Understanding the connection between orofacial integrity and communication function is also necessary. It takes time and a lot of expertise to become sophisticated at giving these tests. On the following page, a number of typical orofacial examination findings and potential clinical ramifications are discussed. Be aware that this is not a comprehensive list and that it does not cover all possible ramifications for each finding.

Abnormal color of the tongue, palate, or pharynx

A grayish color is normally associated with muscular paresis or paralysis. A bluish tint may result from excessive vascularity or bleeding. A whitish color present along the border of the hard and soft palate is a symptom of a submucosal cleft. An abnormally dark or translucent color on the hard palate may be an indication of a palatal fistula or a cleft. Dark spots may indicate oral cancer.

Asymmetry of the face or palate

This is frequently accompanied by neurological dysfunction or weak muscles. A left- or right-sided deviation of the tongue or uvula could be a sign of neurological involvement. If this is the case, the tongue may veer to the weaker side because the weaker half of the tongue can’t extend as far as the stronger half. As the palatal muscles on the stronger side pull the uvula closer to the velopharyngeal opening during phonation, the uvula may deviate to that side. Asymmetry on the face is also more likely to exist. The client may also have dysarthria, aphasia, or both.

Enlarged tonsils

Numerous kids have huge tonsils, which have no negative effects on their ability to speak. However, in some instances, swollen tonsils might affect general health, typical resonance, and hearing acuity (if the eustachian tubes are closed). It’s also possible for the tongue to continue moving forward, which would cause aberrant articulation.

Missing teeth

The ability to articulate may be hampered depending on which teeth are lacking. It is crucial to establish if the communicative issue is primarily caused by missing teeth or if they are a contributing factor. Most of the time, especially in toddlers, missing teeth have little to no impact on articulation.

Mouth breathing

Mouth breathing may also be accompanied by the anterior posture of the tongue at rest, which may indicate that the patient has a constricted pathway to the nasal cavity. If this is a recurrent issue and the patient also displays hyponasal (denasal) speaking, a referral to a doctor is necessary.

Poor intraoral pressure

A weak labial system is indicated by poor cheek air maintenance. It can also be a symptom of velopharyngeal insufficiency, which is a structural issue, or velopharyngeal incompetence, which is a functional issue. Make sure no air is escaping from the lips or from the nose. Additionally, this client may experience hypernasality, dysarthria, or both.

Prominent rugae

This may indicate an abnormally narrow or low palate or both, or an abnormally large tongue in relation to the palatal areas. Pronounced rugae is also associated with tongue thrust.

Short lingual frenum

This may result in an articulation disorder. If the client is unable to place the tongue against the alveolar ridge or the teeth to produce sounds such as /t/, /d/, /n/, /l/, /t/, and /d3/, the frenum may need to be clipped by a physician.

Weak, Asymmetrical, or Absent Gag Reflex

This may indicate muscular weakness in the velopharyngeal area. Neurological impairment may be present. It is important to note, however, that conclusions cannot be made without considering other factors. Some people with normal muscular integrity do not have a gag reflex.

Weakness of the lips, tongue, or jaw: This is common among clients with neurological impairments. Aphasia, dysarthria, or both, may be present.

Oral Mechanism Exam PDF Form

The Oral Mechanism Exam PDF Form is intended to thoroughly evaluate and record a variety of orofacial area characteristics. In order to assess a patient’s facial structures, jaw, teeth, lips, tongue, pharynx, hard and soft palates, and speech-related movements, doctors or examiners can use it as a systematic guide.

Oral Peripheral Mechanism Examination form provides comprehensive guidelines on how the examiner should look for and document particular traits or abnormalities in the patient. This involves evaluating the symmetry of the face, irregular motions, breathing patterns, dentition, tongue movements, lip strength, pharyngeal disorders, and traits of the hard and soft palates.

Download Oral Mechanism Exam PDF Form

Examiners are asked to cross off and mark specific traits they observed throughout the examination. The form also has space in the right-hand margin for thorough descriptive remarks, which enables the examiner to add particular notes or observations for every area that is assessed.

The final portion, the summary of findings, enables a succinct review of the observations made throughout the investigation. This form plays a crucial role in supporting an organized and comprehensive assessment of orofacial structures, which helps with the diagnosis, planning, and assessment of treatment for a range of speech- and oral-related disorders.

Download Oral Mechanism Exam PDF Form


These components collectively provide a comprehensive understanding of the individual’s oral motor function and help in identifying any issues or abnormalities that may be affecting speech and swallowing. The results of the Oral Peripheral Mechanism Examination guide the development of personalized treatment plans to address specific needs and improve overall oral function and communication skills.

Frequently Asked Questions Related to Oral Mechanism Exam

1. What is the purpose of the Oral Mechanism Exam?

The Oral Mechanism Exam serves as a comprehensive assessment to evaluate the functioning of oral structures involved in speech production and swallowing. It aims to identify potential abnormalities or impairments in the lips, tongue, jaw, palate, and other relevant areas.

2. Who conducts the Oral Mechanism Exam?

Speech-language pathologists, dentists, and various healthcare professionals typically perform the Oral Mechanism Exam to diagnose speech and swallowing difficulties.

3. Why is hygiene emphasized in the Oral Mechanism Exam?

Sterilization and hygiene are crucial to prevent contamination or the spread of infections. This is especially important due to the use of equipment and direct contact with oral structures during the examination.

4. What tools are required for the Oral Mechanism Exam?

The examination generally requires tools such as disposable gloves, a timer, a tongue depressor, a tiny flashlight, cotton gauze, and an applicator stick. Additionally, a mirror might be used to evaluate velopharyngeal movement.

5. How is the examination conducted on young children or uncooperative individuals?

Alternative items like a sucker or foods such as peanut butter or applesauce can be strategically used to evaluate lip and tongue motions. It’s essential to have parental consent before using food products due to potential food sensitivities in children.

6. What speech tasks are involved in the examination process?

Various speech tasks are conducted to assess oral motor control, strength, range of motion, and coordination. These tasks include producing different speech sounds, articulating specific words, sustaining speech, and engaging in spontaneous conversation.

7. How are findings from the Oral Mechanism Exam interpreted?

Understanding the connection between orofacial integrity and communication function is crucial. Interpretation of findings involves considering anatomical, physiological, and neurologic aspects of the oral structures.

8. Why is the Oral Mechanism Exam PDF Form used?

The PDF form serves as a systematic guide to evaluate and record orofacial area characteristics, aiding in a comprehensive assessment of the patient’s oral structures. It assists in diagnosing, planning, and treating various speech and oral-related disorders.

9. What are some common findings and their clinical implications from the examination?

Findings such as abnormal color in specific areas, asymmetry of the face or palate, enlarged tonsils, missing teeth, mouth breathing, poor intraoral pressure, among others, may indicate various speech or neurological conditions.

10. How does the Oral Mechanism Exam contribute to treatment plans?

The results from the examination guide the development of personalized treatment plans, addressing specific needs of individuals, ultimately improving speech and communication skills by targeting the identified oral motor issues.


  • Motor Speech Disorders: Substrates, Differential Diagnosis and Management – Joseph R. Duffy (Book)
  • Assessment in Speech Language Pathology A Resource Manual 5th Edition, Kenneth G. Shipley, Julie G. McAfee (Book)

You are reading about:

How to do an Oral Mechanism Exam


You may also like….


If you have any Suggestion or Question Please Leave a Reply