When you think about dentistry, your airway probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But the airway can have a huge impact on dental and overall health. Dr. Greg Reece of Dentistry of the Queen City, a dentist in Charlotte, NC, discusses the airway and its importance when it comes to dentistry.
The Airway and Dentistry
One of the things that we evaluate with all of our patients, regardless of their age, is their airway. You may be wondering what a dentist is doing looking at an airway, but in reality, the start of our airway is what we deal with on a daily basis. The mouth and nose are the avenues for air to enter our bodies. Even though we should all be nasal breathers, it is impossible to only breathe through your nose (try talking for a long time) and therefore we are able to breathe through our mouth as well.
There is a lot of evidence out there that correlates some very common dental findings with an altered airway that has resulted in altered breathing. One of the things we see in our patients with altered breathing is that their sleep is often negatively affected (since we breathe while we sleep). This altered breathing is both stressful to your body as well as detrimental to your sleep because you often disturb your sleep so that you can compensate and take a more normal breath.
This altered airway oftentimes has to do a great deal with altered growth and development of the jaws. With a lack of development of the upper jaw (the maxilla), the nasal cavity also does not grow to its full potential either, making it very hard to breathe through our nose, so we default to breathing through our mouths. Mouth breathing can have a continued negative impact on our growth and development but also on our overall health.
Consequences of an Altered Airway
Some things we see in our patients that have these issues are poor sleep, increased size of the tonsils and adenoids, bruxism (grinding of teeth), snoring, GERD, poor diet, increased fatigue, and increased facial pain, as well as many others.
Often, an altered airway can lead to a diagnosis of sleep apnea and/or TMJ disorders. Sleep apnea occurs when the soft muscles in the back of the throat collapse while you’re sleeping, blocking the airway. TMJ can occur as an impact of bruxism and teeth grinding. It changes the way your jaw joint functions and may lead to pain, jaw locking, and troubles with opening and closing the mouth.
This explanation is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what we look for with regards to your oral health and your airway. If you feel that you or someone you know may have some of these issues, please feel free to call our office or schedule an appointment online.