Airway dentistry is a new and growing field that’s focused on the structure of the mouth and how that impacts your breathing.
They look for sleep-disordered breathing by looking for signs of mouth breathing when you’re sleeping. Things like tooth wear, the position of your tongue, mouth breathing, improper swallow patterns, and the condition of the soft tissue in your mouth can speak to airway dentists. The goal is to prevent sleep-disordered breathing and sleep apnea, which can lead to bigger issues down the road.
Dentists are in a unique position to screen children for the recognizable signs and symptoms of mouth breathing, malocclusion, craniofacial anomalies, and related conditions that can lead to breathing and sleep issues.
Early diagnosis of airway obstruction, mouth breathing, and malocclusion, with identification of the underlying causes, is essential to prevent worse orofacial growth abnormalities and functional concerns. It is now understood that early diagnosis can lead to earlier treatment, which can be more effective, simpler, and less invasive than waiting until all of the baby teeth fall out.
Diagnosis of dental malocclusions and skeletal deformities associated with mouth breathing requires comprehensive and frequent examinations. Routine early examination and diagnosis should begin at birth or soon after birth.
All infants should be screened for craniofacial deformities that can affect airway form and function.
Breastfeeding should be encouraged as it promotes good nasal breathing, just as it decreases the incidence of mouth breathing. The reverse is true of bottle-fed infants. So infants that are solely bottle-fed should be screened more often for the subtle effects of mouth breathing, tongue swallowing and thrusting, and palatal arch Deformation.
At the age of two and three, subtle dental signs of nasal obstruction and mouth breathing can be seen. Some of the clearest signs include open bite, posterior crossbite, and excessive overjet.
From ages three to twelve, early airway obstruction and craniofacial deformities are easier to treat with more options for correction. To better recognize oral breathing Airway issues, a cephalometric x-ray should be used to evaluate for airway space.
Airway dentistry and sleep apnea probably aren’t what you think of immediately when you think of a dentist. However, airway dentistry is becoming an important part of many dental practices.
How does airway dentistry help you?
Even if you don’t go to an airway dentist specifically, symptoms may be noticed during a general dental exam. Airway dentists will look for the oral signs of sleep-disordered breathing at every dental exam you have, just to keep on top of things.
Usually, sleep-disordered breathing is caused by the relaxation of the muscles in the throat. With sleep apnea, breathing is completely stopped by these muscles. However, there are conditions like Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) that don’t stop breathing but do mess with normal breathing patterns.
Both conditions affect Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. This is one of the most important parts of the sleep cycle. REM sleep is used for your brain and body to rejuvenate itself from the day. If this is disrupted nightly, it can lead to serious health issues.
Our teeth positioning and jaws are connected to our sleeping disorders like snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, which are affecting millions of people today. Obstructive sleep apnea is a respiratory disturbance that creates many further health issues like high blood pressure, stroke attack, and depression. Improper breathing makes people feel drowsy during the day and has difficulty paying attention and breathing through their mouth. The solution to these issues is airway orthodontics which can give the best results if treated at a young age.
Here are some of the benefits of an airway dentist/orthodontist
- Help provide a good night’s sleep without any struggle to breathe while sleeping.
- Helps in healthy facial development at a younger age
- Reduces or helps in eliminating the usage of braces in the future.
- Reduces or helps in eliminating the need for jaw surgery in the future.
- Helps improve overall health as it solves sleep issues which can lead to many health issues.
- Helps to breathe better, feel better and perform better in all aspects of life.
- Improve proper oral rest posture by giving them wide palates and forward growing faces using their growth and development.
- Helps with Mouth Breathing
- Gummy Smile
- Weak Chin
The philosophy of Airway Orthodontics is to respect and protect the airway’s health <span style=”font-weight: 400;”>during the orthodontic treatment process. Straightening the teeth is, of course, a large part of orthodontic treatment, but it is important to remember that the teeth are attached to a child, and your child’s health is just as important, if not more.
Airway-centric orthodontics is an approach to straightening the teeth and jaw that entails opening the airways to improve breathing to prevent airway problems. Orthodontics in dentistry focuses on dental health, including the treatment and correction of issues related to the teeth and supporting structures.
The art and science of orthodontics can be divided into three categories based on the nature and time of intervention:
- Preventive orthodontics
- Interceptive orthodontics
- Corrective orthodontics
We now know from extensive research that any initial signs of crooked or crowded teeth or incorrect bite positions mean that the jaws are not growing properly. Crooked teeth are only ONE of the many symptoms that signal a poor growth and development pattern. The underlying causes can be improper oral habits, such as breathing through your mouth instead of your nose and developing an incorrect swallowing pattern.
The upper jaw grows properly when you breathe through your nose and your tongue positions naturally in and on the roof of your mouth– this is known as the “correct tongue resting position” A properly positioned tongue is actually natural braces for a full wide upper jaw and straight teeth to develop around. When breathing out of your mouth, your tongue automatically drops down and hangs low; as a result, the top jaw narrows, and the arch “collapses.” When this happens, the teeth have less room and space available in the dental arch and become crowded in order to try to fit; it feels too big for the space.
Because many of the bones of the face are connected to each other, when one bone is out of balance or not growing correctly, it can have a domino effect on the other bones and structures of the face. For example, the roof of the mouth (palate) is also the floor of the nose; they are, in fact, the same bone. So, common yet harmful behaviors like mouth-breathing not only lead to narrow and collapsed palates and crowded teeth but also directly affect the space, size, and shape of the nasal cavity. This leads to constricted and narrow nasal cavities, which make breathing through your nose even more difficult. This compromised airway affects everything from daytime cognitive performance to nighttime sleep quality because the body cannot properly oxygenate the organs.
In a properly “tongue-supported upper jaw,” the upper teeth are always on the outside or overlapping the lower teeth. Consequently, if a narrow upper jaw develops as previously described, it prevents the lower jaw from growing-it can’t move forward. If the lower jaw or mandible is trapped or blocked from achieving its natural forward growth, this constricts the windpipe behind it. You can now understand how a healthy airway is the foundation of ideal orthodontic treatment results and why addressing all the CAUSES, not just addressing the teeth, is important to your child’s smile and general health.
In addition to understanding mouth-breathing as an underlying cause, another harmful oral habit that must be addressed while in orthodontic treatment is an acquired incorrect swallowing pattern termed a “Tongue thrust” or a “reverse swallow.” This exists when you observe the lips pursing together and tense inward while the chin muscle becomes “dimpled” in appearance during a swallow of food or drink. You may even notice the tongue coming forward or a slight “head bob” during the last part of a swallow. When this swallowing pattern happens repeatedly, about 2000 times per day, the muscles of the tongue, the lips, and the chin put a pound of force on the teeth, and the teeth get “pushed forward,” creating an open bite. In addition to the teeth being affected, this repeated habit inhibits the proper growth of the jaws and therefore leads to a constricted and compromised airway space and size.
Myofunctional Therapy & Sleep Disordered Breathing
Helps correct unhealthy and detrimental behaviors, patterns, and habits (the underlying causes). In turn, your child’s teeth, jaws, and upper airway develop correctly, the healthy way; the way nature intended for us to grow and develop.
In order to live, thrive, and survive, we need to breathe and sleep. Much of the research in the field of sleep medicine and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has concluded that a compromised airway can result in poor sleep. Pediatric sleep-disordered breathing develops from mouth breathing during the day and at night, which puts kids at a much greater risk of developing not only OSA in the future but also many behavioral, emotional, and cognitive issues. Research shows a direct link between children who mouth breathe during the day and then suffer from sleep-disordered breathing at night are often misdiagnosed as having ADD, and ADHD symptoms and experience increased anxiety, problems in school with focus or behavior, nighttime teeth grinding, bedwetting, snoring, long face appearance with weak chins, dark circles under the eyes and more.
Myofunctional Therapy can help address and correct bad habits and oral problems that cause mouth-breathing and help redirect poor airway growth early in life, during these important and formative years when children need all the help they can get.
A healthy airway allows your child to breathe better, sleep better, and function better. Orthodontics gives your child “straight teeth;” Myofunctional therapy with airway orthodontics can give your child a BETTER QUALITY OF LIFE as well.
But why did these evolutionary changes occur?
The doctors suspect shifts in the human diet, such as artificial methods of infant nursing and weaning with commercially processed cereals and other “baby foods.” Centuries ago, humans in hunter-gatherer societies who foraged for their food consumed a lot of fresh, tough, and fibrous foods, and they also used their teeth to make tools and process leather for their clothing. In other words, their jaws had to work harder, so the underlying muscles were stronger, and their facial bones were thicker. The advent of farming— specifically the introduction of cereal grains and dairy—changed everything.
Dentists and physicians should mutually provide consistent and accurate advice to parents regarding options for infant and early childhood feeding regimens.
“They are also training preschool and elementary school teachers to look for signs in the classroom that may be indicative of students who have existing sleep apnea or are at risk of developing it later.
“Dentistry is changing in a good way!