Airway Orthodontics

What is Airway Orthodontics?

For our practice, Orthodontics is a lot more than just straight teeth and a beautiful smile, we are focused on the overall long-term health of our patients. When a child presents with 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 off sufficiently during sleep that 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 – like 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

  • Snoring
  • Mouth Breathing
  • Enlarged Tonsils/Adenoids
  • Facial & Jaw Deformities
  • Restless Sleep & Drowsiness During the Day
  • Moodiness
  • Short Attention Span or ADD/ADHD
  • Bed Wetting

Causes

The most common and significant 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)

Treatment

  • 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.
  • Reduction of obstructive tissues (Remove Tonsils/Adenoids, allergy correction or naturopathic). Research has shown that the best results occur when both are done! We work closely with a wonderful group of ENTs (Ear Nose and Throats) who understand the relationship of breathing, airways and dentofacial growth. Dr. Toro works closely with Dr. Peter Catalano (Chief ENT at St. Elizabeth Medical Center). For more than 10 years they have worked together and have made a huge difference in our patients!

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.