Orthodontic treatment is a branch of dentistry that focuses on correcting irregularities in the alignment of teeth and jaws. While its primary goals often include improving the aesthetics of the smile and enhancing oral health, orthodontics can also have a positive impact on airway-related problems, particularly those associated with breathing and sleep-disordered breathing.
Expansion of the Palate
Your orthodontist can use appliances like palatal expanders to widen the upper jaw’s palate. This can create more space for the tongue and improve airflow through the nasal passages. A wider palate can help alleviate issues related to nasal congestion and breathing difficulties, especially in children with narrow palates.
Correcting Bite Problems
Malocclusions, which refer to misalignments of the teeth and jaws, can have implications for airway function. Conditions such as overbites, underbites, and crossbites can affect the positioning of the tongue and other soft tissues in the mouth and throat, potentially leading to airway obstruction. Orthodontic treatment, including braces or aligners, can correct these bite problems, which may improve airflow and reduce airway-related concerns.
Mandibular Advancement Devices (MADs)
In some cases, your orthodontist may recommend a MAD, which is a dental appliance designed to reposition the lower jaw slightly forward. This forward positioning can help open the airway by preventing the collapse of the tongue and soft palate during sleep, reducing the risk of sleep apnea and snoring.
Facilitating Proper Tongue Posture
Orthodontic treatment can help create the ideal conditions for proper tongue posture, which is essential for maintaining a clear airway. When the tongue rests in the correct position against the roof of the mouth (palate), it can prevent tongue-based airway obstruction and improve overall breathing.
Facial and Jaw Development
Early orthodontic intervention in growing children can guide the development of the facial bones and jaws. Proper jaw alignment and facial development can contribute to a more open airway and may prevent future airway problems. Techniques like orthopedic appliances and functional orthodontics are often used in these cases.
Combined Treatment Approaches
In some instances, orthodontic treatment may be part of a comprehensive approach to address airway issues. This may involve collaboration between your orthodontist, otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat specialists), and sleep medicine specialists to address both the dental and medical aspects of airway obstruction and sleep-related breathing disorders.
It's important to note that not all airway issues can be resolved solely through orthodontic treatment. The specific approach depends on your diagnosis and the nature of your airway problem. A thorough evaluation by your orthodontist is essential to determine the most effective treatment approach.