At Maplewood Dental Arts, we’re not just dental care providers, we consider ourselves a part of your overall healthcare team. Most often signs and symptoms of systemic diseases and problems can be discovered first in the oral cavity. The newest research and literature have shown that problems with the airway and breathing, and in particular, sleep-disturbed breathing, can be the root cause for many systemic diseases that include but are not limited to heart disease, chronic pain, inflammatory diseases, mental health problems, as well as inflammation and disease in the oral cavity. Which is why, when you come in for a routine oral health care visit, we perform a whole mouth examination to check for signs of airway issues in both kids and adults.
Mouth breathing is particularly problematic as it can be the cause of a number of different airway issues. When mouth breathing becomes habitual, it leads to poor facial growth as a child and which leads to smaller, constricted, or obstructed airways as an adult. Mouth breathing also affects the position of the tongue in the mouth. The tongue, which acts as a natural retainer when it rests in its proper position on the roof of the mouth, supports a child’s upper arch, which in turn allows enough room in the mouth for all the teeth to come in correctly as well as maintaining facial bone development as a child matures.
Additionally, mouth breathing in children and adults can result in more bacterial flora in the mouth, which increases a patient’s risk for cavities, a higher risk of periodontal disease later in life, and painful temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD).
Current research shows that poor facial development caused by the negative effects of mouth breathing, enlarged adenoids and tonsils, and tight maxillary and lingual frenum attachments (which are commonly known as lip-ties or tongue-ties) can lead to serious health issues in children, including poor or fragmented sleep patterns which prevent the natural release of growth hormones; obstructive sleep apnea; ADHD and other behavioral issues; increased severity of asthma; chronic sinus and/ or ear infections; and dental malocclusion (the misalignment of the teeth). These can lead to more chronic and lifelong diseases as an adult.
When caught early, the airway issues caused by poor facial development and mouth breathing are very treatable. While some conditions may require the expertise of a surgeon, such as removal of the adenoids and tonsils or orthognathic surgery, an allergy specialist, or an orthodontist, the dentists at Maplewood Dental Arts are able to address some of these issues from the comfort of the dental chair.
We screen our youngest patients for lip or tongue ties and if necessary, we are able to refer to the proper specialist to perform a simple, painless laser frenectomy to correct the problem and prevent future complications. With orthodontics, we can address dental malocclusion and palate expansions which can lead to improved facial structure outcomes to prevent troublesome airway issues as your child grows. We coach all our patients on how to properly nasal breathe and provide the necessary aids to achieve ideal nasal breathing. We also teach simple myofunctional movements that improve tongue posture for better breathing and to reduce clenching and grinding. We also provide in office or refer to a specialist to provide the appropriate oral appliance or splint to aid in sleep disordered breathing. We also work in close tandem with physical therapists to aid in the therapy of muscle and joint pain that often accompanies airway issues.
Preventing the negative health effects of airway issues is one of the most rewarding parts of our work as dental care professionals. At MDA, we believe that early diagnosis, prevention measures, and timely interventions offer the best possible treatment outcomes for airway issues.