Orthodontics Can Improve Breathing

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Orthodontics Can Improve Breathing

Exciting new discoveries are occurring in the field of orthodontics and Dr. Leland is at the forefront! The new focus is on evaluating (and if needed, modifying) a patient’s airway! That’s right, Dr. Leland is embarking on learning about how he can use his expertise to help patients breathe better through both their nose and throat. You’ve heard about our new 3D x-ray machine, which is the key to allowing Dr. Leland to see the structures of the airway clearly and decide on the best course of treatment.

It’s not obvious how an orthodontist, a specific type of tooth doctor, would have anything to do with a patient’s airway . . . so let me paint the picture for you. The roof of a person’s mouth is the same structure as the floor of their nose (Think about an apartment complex where the ceiling of unit 101 is the same as the floor of unit 201. Ever wonder why it sounds like Godzilla is living above you?!?). A common method used by orthodontists to create space for permanent teeth to come in is arch expansion – widening either the upper jaw bone, the lower jaw bone, or both at the same time. So . . . by expanding the upper jaw bone, orthodontists are able to widen a patient’s nasal passages to allow more airflow. Similarly, orthodontists are able to affect the forward/backward position of the jaws, which plays a role in where the back of the tongue sits, which affects a person’s ability to breathe through their throat.

Nasal breathing is particularly important for several reasons. Breathing through the nose whenever someone is not talking, particularly when asleep, allows the tongue to be positioned in the roof of the mouth, which creates proper width in the upper jaw as it grows. If a child is a mouth-breather (mouth open at night when sleeping), there is a high likelihood that the upper jaw bone will not form appropriately. In addition, nose breathing is important because it filters the air before it gets to your lungs, which is important for lung cleanliness and proper function. Consequences of constricted nasal passageways can be severe and include: snoring, waking up many times during the night (even if the patient isn’t aware they are waking frequently), bedwetting, feeling of fatigue in the morning, difficulty focusing at school, ADHD . . . which often lead to a poorer quality of life for the patient.

The major effect that this treatment can have on patients’ lives is extremely exciting to Dr. Leland and he can’t learn fast enough! This is an amazing opportunity to combine orthodontics with medicine to make a significant difference! And orthodontists definitely cannot do this alone. In fact, the orthodontist is just one member of a multi-disciplinary team of professionals (which includes a patient’s pediatric or general dentist, speech pathologist, myofunctional therapist, ear nose and throat doctor, among others) who collaborate to give the patient the most effective treatment plan. If you know anyone who suffers from difficulty breathing, difficulty focusing or being productive, or chronic fatigue, please encourage them get a consultation. So important that we use this groundbreaking information to improve the lives of the Reno community!

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