Breathe Better – SLEEP BETTER. Can a Dentist Help You?

One of the significant problems created by incorrect breathing is sleep apnea. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, approximately 22 million people, including children, suffer from sleep apnea. Various remedies have been discussed, including Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines and oral appliances. But, very few solutions have focused on breathing — the correct way of breathing! 

Nose breathing is optimal, as one of the primary causes of sleep apnea is mouth breathing. While mouth breathing by itself is not wrong, when the majority of your breathing is mouth breathing, it can signify problems with your teeth and facial symmetry. There is evidence that mouth breathing has adverse effects on the development of the jaw, teeth and the shape of the developing skull. 

There is one person who happens to look at your teeth and your face structure regularly — your dentist! But not all dentists are well-versed in looking at breathing issues relating to sleep apnea. Most dentists have not received training in diagnosing breathing problems by just looking at your teeth, facial symmetry and physical health. 

Breathing and sleep apnea problems can be caught early in children because they see their dentist more frequently. There can be significant health risks associated with sleep apnea, especially in children. In order to diagnose sleep apnea in children, your dentist should ask you questions about

Answers to these types of questions can help the dentist diagnose if the child is having breathing issues that could lead to sleep apnea. Children who grind their teeth may have breathing issues. It is possible that cases of ADHD or ADD stem from sleep apnea, which affects growth and development in children. 

In adults, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) are associated with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and depression. There are several factors to consider when diagnosing sleep apnea in adults, such as age, obesity, neck circumference, small or recessed chin and teeth grinding. Removal of teeth in childhood orthodontics to straighten out the jawline could also be a factor in causing obstructive sleep disorder. A knowledgeable and skilled dentist can offer suggestions and remedies that can help open the airway. 

The bottom line is that the best way to address sleep apnea is by practicing nasal breathing as opposed to mouth breathing. Nasal breathing is healthier as it slows down the heart rate, allows deep sleep and helps the body switch from sympathetic to parasympathetic nervous system. That enables our body chemistry to regulate itself. You’ll feel more alert and have a sharper focus when practicing nasal breathing while sleeping. 

At our office, we do a thorough evaluation regarding breathing, apnea risk, malocclusion and teeth grinding. Based on the exam, we suggest remedies and appliances — from a simple snore guard to an evaluation by an orthodontist. We can also guide you on techniques to achieve all the health benefits associated with nasal breathing. A tremendous improvement can happen when we start correcting it in children. 

Dr. Rapal

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