Airway disruption can be a serious problem for people who have trouble breathing, but it's something that dentists can help address.
Dentists are uniquely qualified to help with airway disruption because they have specialized training in facial anatomy and oral health issues. In this article, we will review how you can spot signs of airway disruption before they become serious problems and take steps to treat them early on, so they don't get worse over time!
Airway disruption is not a well-defined term, but it is most commonly associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Whereas snoring only occurs during sleep and stops when you breathe normally, OSA occurs when your airway collapses at night and causes an obstruction that is severe enough to stop breathing.
When breathing stops, the body sends signals to trigger arousal so that breathing can resume. The arousal can be so brief that you do not remember waking up, or it can be long enough for you to wake completely.
There are many possible factors that will put a person at risk for OSA, including obesity, a narrow airway or enlarged tonsils or tongue, alcohol use before bedtime, and taking sedative medications before bedtime.
Obstructive can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can be subtle and easy to miss.
But there are oral indicators of sleep apnea that can help you detect and treat obstructive sleep apnea before it becomes life-threatening.
One of the most common oral indicators of obstructive sleep apnea is a dry mouth in the morning. If you wake up with a dry mouth, it's possible that your airway was blocked at some point during the night. This is especially true if you felt like you were choking or having trouble breathing when you woke up in the middle of the night.
Other common oral indicators include teeth grinding, tooth sensitivity, difficulty swallowing and/or feeling like there's something stuck in your throat, sore or swollen gums, jaw pain or stiffness, jaw clicking or popping when opening or closing your mouth, redness around the lips or nose (from snoring), pain in the neck or shoulders (from snoring), and excessive drooling while sleeping.
When you peek into someone's mouth and take a look around, you may notice some telltale signs of airway disruption.
If the patient's teeth are crowded or overlapping, that may be an indicator that the jaw is too small for their airway.
The same goes for a person whose molars don't fully meet, which is called an open bite. While this condition can be caused by behavioural issues (like thumb sucking), it can also result from a lack of space in the mouth. Other symptoms might include a long face or underdeveloped chin, which could indicate that the patient has an underbite.
In these cases, patients will want to consult with both dentists and orthodontists in order to address these issues holistically; oftentimes, orthodontists will use dental appliances to help expand a patient's airway while they are undergoing treatment with braces.
By identifying the signs of airway disruption early on, dental professionals are able to treat children before they develop behavioral issues or secondary conditions such as cavities, tooth grinding, sleep apnea, snoring, or asthma problems.
Your dental team can identify airway disruption by screening patients for signs like mouth breathing, snoring, or sleep apnea. Dentists can also analyze the airway using state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging tools and the latest in 3D digital scanning technology to diagnose any issues that could be affecting their oral health.
Once you have identified a problem, treatment depends on the root cause of the issue.
This could mean creating an enlarged tonsil or adenoid with a surgical procedure called adenotonsillectomy, orthodontics to align teeth, eliminating bad habits like thumb sucking or tongue poking that are causing malocclusion (misalignment of teeth), or even a special jaw surgery called genioplasty to improve facial structure and jaw function.
Airway disruption often occurs due to malocclusion from improper tooth alignment, which calls for preventive strategies to keep these problems from occurring in the first place. This could include dental appliances like removable palatal expanders, and fixed braces during growth spurts when children are more likely to experience rapid changes in their jaws and faces.
Dental care can be used to identify a variety of health problems in patients who have difficulty communicating with their doctors. It can also be used as an early warning system for individuals who may be at risk of developing these problems.
Finally, by using dental care as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, it becomes possible for doctors to provide better care for their patients.