The average person tends to visit their primary care physician only when they are sick. Some don’t have a PCP and drop in to Urgent Care Clinics if they get ill. The dentist sees these same patients every year and sometimes twice a year. Each time looking directly into the airway as they assess the dentition. In 2017 the ADA issued a policy statement addressing the need for dentists to evaluate airways as a standard of care going forward.
The roof of the mouth is the bottom of the nasal cavity. A wide broad palate can be indicative of a large nasal cavity. If the palate is small, V-shaped, and high arched, the size and efficiency of the nasal cavity may be compromised. Additionally, tooth crowding can be a sign of a compromised airway due to a functional limitation from the nasal cavity.
The nose has many important functions when it comes to the air we breathe. It is not just for our sense of smell. The nose filters the air we breathe by removing allergens, germs, and other noxious stimuli. The nasal sinuses produce nitric oxide and release it as air flows across structures in our nose called the turbinates. This nitric oxide is instrumental in dilating blood vessels and reducing the strain on the heart. Nitric oxide is also a crucial player in immune defense.
Myofunctional therapy is essentially physical therapy for the muscles of the face and mouth. Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMD’s) are disorders of the muscles and functions of the face and mouth. OMD’s can affect breastfeeding, facial skeletal growth & development, speech, chewing, swallowing, the TMJ, dental occlusion, and smile and facial esthetics.
In isolated cases, extractions of some permanent teeth for orthodontic space is necesssary, for many, it can be avoided with early phase intervention. This can be accomplished through arch expansion and optimizing forward face growth. When teeth are extracted, it locks the arch into a position that can be too constricted for the tongue. This can lead to a low resting tongue posture which positions the tongue posteriorly into the airway space. Adults also have the option of expanding their arches and nasal cavity through various treatments.
Mouth taping encourages nasal breathing at night when the mouth tends to drop open and lead to mouth breathing. Using a small piece of micropore tape or mouth strips specifically designed for mouth taping from Woody Knows or Somnifix, you can keep the lips sealed through the night to ensure nasal breathing. For a lot of individuals, this practice for a few weeks can lead to a proper lip seal habit through the night.
Nasal breathing during exercise can reduce fatigue and speed up recovery by enhancing the uptake of oxygen from hemoglobin by the muscles. It may seem counter intuitive but the controlled air flow through the nose allows the body to maintain more carbon dioxide (CO2) thus triggering the red blood cells to release the oxygen to the tissues. During exercise, you can optimize your endurance, post-exercise energy levels and the ability to metabolize fat by breathing through your nose.
Mouth breathing has many dental manifestations in periodontal disease and cavities. It can also dry out the mouth and throat leading to inflamed soft tissue such as the soft palate, lining of the throat and tonsils further increasing the chance of apnea.
When we mouth breathe, we are not utilizing the immune protective effects of saliva due to chronic dry mouth. Mouth breathing can also activate the sympathetic “flight or fight” response thus elevating stress levels. Additionally, hyperventilation and asthma attacks can be triggered by excessive mouth breathing.
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