What is Airway Orthodontics?
At Advanced Orthodontics, Orthodontics is a lot more than just straight teeth and a beautiful smile. We are focused on the overall health of our patients. One specific area this philosophy becomes important is when a child has a crowded or crooked smile. This is a sign that the jaw is not growing properly. Certain oral habits and jaw deformities can lead to Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB). Airway Orthodontics refers to orthodontic treatment methods used to expand a patient’s airway in order to treat OSA and SDB. What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB)?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs when the airway closes sufficiently during sleep and breathing stops. This triggers release of cortisol (the “fight or flight” or “survival” stress hormone) that increases heart rate and activates muscles to force breathing. Although the person doesn’t actually wake, they are driven from deep restorative sleep to “catch their breath”. Once they begin to relax to the deeper levels of sleep, it happens all over again.
This is hard on the body, imagine running a race all night long. You wake up exhausted and unrested, but more importantly, prolonged levels of increased cortisol negatively affects the immune system, normal hormone production, insulin function, gastric acid production, learning and memory retrieval, and a host of other organs and body functions.
Symptoms of OSA & SDB
- Mouth Breathing
- Enlarged Tonsils/Adenoids
- Facial & Jaw Deformities
- Restless Sleep & Drowsiness During the Day
- Short Attention Span or ADD/ADHD
- Bed Wetting
The most common and significant causes of OSA and SDB are:
- Obstructive tissues (enlarged tonsils, adenoids, turbinate bones (in the nose), deviated septum)
- Lack of room for the tongue (narrow jaws, recessive upper and lower jaws, tongue-tied)
We treat OSA in accordance with the American Association of Orthodontics, the American Academy of Otolaryngology and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The treatment of OSA involves below methods:
- Growth-oriented Orthodontics (jaw expansion, advancement of upper and/or lower jaws to create room for the tongue and open the airway) rather than pulling teeth.
- Collaboration with local ENTs (Ear-Nose-Throat specialists, also known as Otolaryngologists) to properly evaluate and reduce obstructive tissues (allergy correction, remove Tonsils/Adenoids, etc).
- Research has shown that the best results occur when both Orthodontics and ENT treatments are done! Orthodontics addresses the hard-tissue problems (jaw bones and teeth), while ENT addresses the soft-tissue problems.
- In adults with narrow palate, we expand the palate and the nasal airway using miniscrew-assisted rapid palatal expander (MARPE) or surgery-assisted rapid palatal expander (SARPE).
- In adults with severe jaw misalignment, jaw surgery may be recommended. Jaw surgeries require a collaboration between an Orthodontist and an Oromaxillofacial Surgeon (OMFS).
When to Assess and Treat?
As soon as you are aware of the problem! Although 7-8 years of age is an important age for orthodontic correction, we can make a big difference in 3- to 6-year-olds with some simple and timely care. Contact our office today for a free consultation.