Hundreds of studies through the years have shown that maintaining good oral health can promote improved overall health. Now there’s a body of evidence that suggests orthodontic treatment may improve more than just malocclusions and jaw discrepancies, but address other health issues as well.
More orthodontists are looking at the relationship between craniofacial development and airway development, and how orthodontics may improve it.
Research has shown that airway obstruction interferes with breathing. Prolonged breathing impairment can lead to craniofacial malformation, malocclusion and jaw deformation.
Research also has shown that this is a two-way street. Craniofacial malformation such as a narrow palate can lead to airway obstruction and breathing impairment. These malformations can make it more difficult to breathe through the nose, which can result in chronic mouth breathing and lead to sleep apnea, sleep disorders and lifelong ill-health.
Managing craniofacial form and function during the early stages of a child’s growth and development may help correct these issues as they arise and prevent them from creating long-term difficulties.
The Trouble with Mouth Breathing
Some parents may wonder why it matters if a child breathes through the mouth or through the nose. Breathing is breathing, right?
Chronic mouth breathing can lead to dental and skeletal malformation in growing children. Some of these adverse changes include excessive molar eruption and lower jaw rotation. Prolonged mouth breathing also can result in the face taking on an elongated appearance – known as long face syndrome – and the lower jaw taking on an abnormal position.
These issues can lead to other problems. Low tongue posture often is a side effect of mouth breathing, and that can cause the upper jaw to narrow and develop improperly.
There even is a school of thought that mouth breathing is a root cause of behavioral problems in school-age children. Mouth breathing can cause kids to sleep fitfully and prevent them from feeling rested. Lack of sleep can lead to irritability and difficulty concentrating in school.
Our bodies are designed for us to breathe through our noses. Nasal breathing allows oxygen to pass over the mucous membrane and into the sinuses, which produces nitric oxide, which the heart and blood vessels need, according to an NBC article. When you don’t breathe through your nose, your blood doesn’t receive all the oxygen necessary to work properly.
An Orthodontic Solution
Here’s the exciting part: Orthodontics can help make airway and breathing improvements.
Mouth breathing is reversible in children if it is identified and treated early, says Dr. Nima Hajibaik. This is one reason why Dr. Nima and the American Association of Orthodontists promote orthodontic evaluations for children at age 7. Often, no treatment is needed at this age. But if a condition such as mouth breathing is diagnosed, Dr. Nima can provide interceptive treatment to prevent craniofacial development problems.
Treatment may include devices to expand the jaw. This causes the mouth to widen and opens the sinuses, which makes it easier for the child to breathe through the nose again.
Observe your children as they breathe. If you detect mouth breathing, please call our office to schedule a consultation. Let’s work together to keep your children happy and healthy.