I recently attended a continuing education course about a new branch of dentistry that recognizes how your breathing impacts overall health, especially your dental health called airway prosthodontics. Healthy breathing is key! I realized at this course that as dental practitioners we have an amazing opportunity to help our patients with health issues that result from the inability to breathe properly, and how the function of a person’s airway connects to the development of a person’s teeth and bite. As medical research into this area continues to grow it is going to have a profound, proactive impact on the health and well-being of our dental patients.
Breathing and sleeping are interrelated and no one can survive and be healthy on 6 hours of sleep a day. Did you know that the melatonin sleep cycle is typically 7-8 hours each stage of sleep and loops 4-5 times a night? The two key phases of sleep that keep us mentally and physically healthy are:
*Deep sleep is the first stage of sleep and during this phase, our bodies are in repair mode, virus check, our brains reset and this is the curative phase for all of the ills built up that day.
*Your REM sleep brain is more active even than when you are awake. This stage of sleep takes care of emotional health and neural pain. Deprivation of this stage of sleep leads to adrenal fatigue and a myriad of other health issues that can come with it.
Teeth grinding is actually a protective mechanism for breathing. By moving your jaws side to side the body is physiologically seeking a position to get air and breathe better. Often, with kids, we accidentally correct grinding with braces, or in other ways that we alter the surface area of teeth or their facial area, without ever realizing the correlation to the breathing issues that were the root cause in the first place. Having kids in braces will only help grinding as it can correct tooth position and give more room for the tongue. Even if airway/breathing problems are undiagnosed, ortho can only help. Kids grinding was/is often brushed off as idiopathic or “they will grow out of it” when now research shows it is not idiopathic, but a symptom that is telling us they cannot breathe.
Airway prosthodontics can greatly benefit children and will be used to diagnose underlying causes instead of just symptoms. This type of diagnostic approach will provide us with significant preventative options for a healthier long- term prognosis. Our hygienists are educating our patients about chronic gingivitis, inflammation up and immunity down, and acid reflux which can cause havoc on the teeth and oral cavity. These are all indicators of airway issues and can be reduced by helping patients breathe through the nose and not mouth breathing. Young children can be evaluated for grinding and breathing issues early on and parents can consider all the ways we might be able to treat them dentally and orthodontically.
Poor breathing and lack of sleep can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression, obesity, and a myriad of other issues. It is exciting to look ahead to ways that dental care and treatment can contribute to preventing these serious health issues that so many people struggle with every day. We will be keeping you informed as we plan to incorporate this new science into our practice. One of my goals for 2019 is to start exploring ways to expand our knowledge at Maplewood Dental Arts about this important and cutting-edge area of dentistry!
Dr. Andrea Taliento, D.M.D.