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Why is Airway Orthodontics Necessary to Align Your Teeth? Written By: Dr. Ankita Shah, December 2021

Tongue Tie

Did you know that our entire jaw and mouth structure lie right in front of the airway? That's right! This is the reason why treating the jaw and mouth structure is essential as it helps to significantly enhance the airway function that is the way we breathe and sleep. Also, how our face and jaw grows is one of the contributing factors to a healthy airway.

airway

To enjoy optimal health, an individual needs to have a healthy airway, and this is where airway orthodontics can help. Airway Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry that helps keep the airway wide & open and treats malocclusion - misaligned teeth that lead to an improper bite. Orthodontics helps to not only straighten irregular, unevenly aligned and crooked teeth, but also helps improve breathing, speech, chewing and body posture.

This branch of dentistry understands that breathing, jaw, and sleep disorders can be caused by the incorrect resting posture of the tongue and the backward position of jaws. Thus, in airway orthodontics, the focus is on expanding the jaw to bring it forward, which helps widen the airway, improving an individual’s general health and well-being. Apart from widening the airway, airway orthodontics also helps correct spine posture, tongue posture, provides protection to TMJ joints and helps enhance sleep & breathing pattern.

A] Symptoms of Airway Conditions

Below are a few symptoms that indicate you have a compromised airway, which needs immediate treatment. If not treated, the condition can cause serious medical issues such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic stress, cognitive impairment, among others.

Mouth breathing or snoring or sleep apnea

Excessive daytime fatigue and snoring

Dark circles under the eyes

TMJ symptoms

Protruding or retruded lower jaw

Long face

Recurrent ear infections and migraines

Crooked teeth or narrow upper jaw

Head, neck and back pain

Grinding and clenching teeth

ADHD, Poor attention and Concentration, Bedwetting and Thumb sucking in children

Blood pressure

B] Benefits of Airway Centric Orthodontics

Unlike traditional orthodontics, Airway Centric Orthodontics has moved the focus beyond the teeth and includes a thorough examination of the face, throat, nose, neck and muscles of the tongue to recommend appropriate treatments.

Airway Orthodontics help:

Straighten crooked teeth offering aesthetic benefits

Restore the proper airflow, improves breathing and reduces the possibility of sleep apnea

Improve nasal breathing

Facilitate natural jaw growth and development

Prevent potential airway issues in the long run

Improve the jaw structure and body posture

Balance facial structural development

Enhance regular functions - eating, chewing, speech and sleep

C] Why Does Having Straight Teeth Matter?

1. Lowers the Risk of Tooth Decay: Since crooked teeth make it difficult to brush teeth effectively, there are high chances of plaque formation, leading to cavities and tooth decay. Straight teeth, on the other hand, makes brushing and flossing easy. This helps enhance oral health and prevents tooth loss.

2. Healthier Gums: Plaque formation can also cause inflammation & infection in gums known as gingivitis. By straightening crooked teeth, you can brush and floss much more efficiently as mentioned above. This, in turn, will help you maintain healthy gums.

3. Enhances Chewing Ability: An aligned bite is a healthy bite that can help improve your oral as well as general health. Along with improving your ability to chew, having the perfect bite helps improve speech.

4. Eliminates Uneven Wear and Teeth Grinding: When the bite is incorrect, it leads to uneven wear and chronic teeth grinding (also known as Bruxism). This can be resolved by teeth straightening.

5. Can Help With Sleep Apnea: If the root cause of sleep apnea is craniofacial abnormalities or improper position/size of the jaw, then correcting the position of teeth through orthodontic treatment is helpful. In adults, orthodontic treatment along with myofunctional therapy can be helpful. For children, Myofunctional Therapy alongside interceptive airway orthodontic treatment that uses growth modification appliances like Orthotropics, Twin blocks, Facemasks, Braces or Invisalign can help treat sleep apnea.

6. Keeps the TMJ Strong and Healthy: Since a misaligned bite can put undue pressure on teeth and gum, it can invariably affect the bones that support the teeth. An incorrect bite can also put stress on the jaw joint, causing TMJ pain, headaches and migraines. Hence, through teeth and jaw alignment using airway orthodontics, you can reduce body aches & discomfort as it helps strengthen the TMJ making it healthy.

7. Helps in maintaining a good body posture: When the airway is inadequately open, the body automatically alters the head posture, which, in turn, alters the body posture. With airway orthodontics, you can significantly improve the airway structure, thereby restoring good body posture that leads to a healthier life.

Influence of Teeth on Posture

D] Treatments and Orthodontic Appliances

Airway Orthodontics treatment is tailored for each individual based on their age, specific dental malocclusion, and health concerns. The treatment can include a combination of traditional orthodontics and neuromuscular dentistry.

In gneuromuscular dentistry, the focus is on realigning crooked teeth, muscles and jaw joints to obtain optimal harmony between the mouth and body. Depending on the type of malocclusion, appropriate orthopedic appliances are used to straighten teeth and achieve a well-balanced aesthetic face, healthy bite & jaw joints, enhanced body posture, and a healthier airway.

For children, early intervention is important as their bones are more malleable, and at a younger age (unlike teenage years), children are more cooperative and tolerant. Early treatment primarily focuses on structural and/or postural correction of the jaw size and the direction of the jaw growth. Early intervention can also make further treatment as a teenager simpler, quicker and more comfortable. Plus, prevent the need for braces in future.

To straighten crooked teeth in children, Oral Myofunctional Therapy is used alongside a combination of Prefabricated Oral Appliances like Myobrace and MyoMunchee, some jaw expanders and orthopedic appliances to bring the jaw growth forward. This treatment is well-suited for children above 3 years of age and early teens. Both OMT and the Oral Appliances help correct the underlying cause of crooked teeth, which helps facilitate its natural growth & development.

Orthodontic treatment for children and adults can help improve the appearance of the teeth and leads to enhanced speech and chewing function, breathing through the nose and quality sleep function. To achieve this, the orthodontist can use:

Braces and Aligners: These are excellent for patients of all ages and includes aligners, Damon, metal, ceramic & lingual braces and Invisalign. Depending on the situation, the orthodontist will select an orthodontic appliance that will help the facial bones, jaws and body to develop naturally to their full potential. This will help develop beautiful smiles, balanced TMJ and healthy airways.

Braces and Aligners

Alternate Lightwire Appliances: As a non-invasive orthodontic appliance, ALF appliances work on the principles of cranial osteopathy. For children below 7-year of age, ALF appliances can help develop proper facial growth and balance. For children aged 7-11 years, these appliances can remodel suboptimal growth in early years, redirecting proper development during the remaining active growth. An ALF device is also used for selective adults to improve alignment, balance, function, and aesthetics.

Alternate lightwire appliance

Maxillary Skeletal Expander: Commonly used for expanding the upper jaw in teens and adults, Miniscrew-assisted rapid palatal expansion (MARPE)/ MSE is a minimally invasive, non-extraction and non-surgical treatment. It is an excellent treatment for individuals with very narrow upper jaws and those who experience breathing issues through their nose. This includes disorders such as mouth breathing, snoring, upper airway resistance syndrome or sleep apnea. With MSE, the orthodontist can widen the upper jaw to increase the nasal cavity space.

Maxillary skeletal expander

Day/Night Appliances: This is a pain-free, minimally invasive process that uses DNA Appliance to expand the upper arch space in three dimensions, thereby increasing the size of the nasal cavity. With the widening of the upper arch, the lower jaw can move forward in a natural position. The forward movement of the jaw pulls at the tongue and soft tissues, which increases the size of the airway. This helps significantly to improve the individual’s ability to breathe.

Day Night Appliance Vivos

Myofunctional therapy: Working on the principle that muscle dysfunction is the cause of malocclusion, Myofunctional therapy includes procedures that help exercise the mouth and facial muscles. Dysfunctional habits such as mouth breathing, incorrect swallowing, thumb sucking and tongue thrusting may cause malocclusion. Thus, myofunctional therapy helps correct these habits, improving facial growth. Myofunctional therapy can also help create space for the tongue to occupy the maxilla and ensure the patient breathes through the nose (with the lips closed). This ensures proper arch development and dental alignment.

#Why Airway Orthodontics is Better Than Traditional Orthodontics For Teeth Alignment?

In traditional orthodontics, to alleviate overcrowding and create space for teeth alignment, teeth are extracted, which can cause TMD and lead to a compromised airway. A compromised airway is one of the reasons for mouth breathing and poor posture. A smaller jaw also puts pressure on the muscles and exerts a force on the jaw joint, resulting in TMJ pain. All of this, in turn, can cause migraines, head, neck, and back pain.

Airway Orthodontics is Better Than Traditional Orthodontics For Teeth Alignment play icon play icon

Unlike traditional orthodontics, airway orthodontics help correct the true cause i.e. the jaw problem and not mask it with teeth alignment. It helps correct jaw growth - facilitating proper jaw position from earlier years. This prevents disturbed breathing, sleep and TMD and restores the airway by achieving a balanced facial structure & function.

An orthodontist aims to:

Straighten crooked teeth

Treat an improper bite

Improve chewing ability

Close wide gaps between teeth

Improve gum and teeth health

Improve speech

As airway orthodontists, we follow an interdisciplinary approach to teeth straightening. We look for the cause and treat them holistically, addressing varied aspects - breathing, tongue posture, body posture, eating, sleep and mental well-being.

To book an appointment, get in touch with us today!

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