Breathing problems are fairly common, but they can be difficult to diagnose. A person's breathing problems can be caused by a variety of factors, including dental issues.
In order to understand how to solve airway problems with orthodontic care, it's important to understand what malocclusion is, and how it affects the airway.
Malocclusion refers to a misalignment or improper setup of your teeth. Most people have some degree of malocclusion, but some types can lead to serious breathing problems and other health complications.
The most common cause of malocclusion is genetic factors, such as when one or both parents have this condition. But other factors such as sucking a thumb or excessive pacifier use can also play a role in creating this problem too.
The most common symptoms include:
- Upper anterior teeth that come into contact with your lower front teeth incorrectly (also called 'overbite' or ‘overjet’)
- Lower anterior teeth that are in front of upper anterior teeth (known as 'underbite')
Molocclusion Can Lead To Airway Problems
The airway is the passage from the nose and mouth to the lungs. The tongue, teeth, or jaw can block that airway, causing air to pass unevenly. This causes you to feel short of breath, wheeze, or have a dry cough.
When you have a narrow airway, it can cause breathing problems. This is because the airway is too small to allow proper airflow through your nose and mouth.
When you have an underbite or overbite, your teeth may not align properly with each other, which puts pressure on them as they meet while chewing food, or while you sleep. That pressure causes pain in your jaw joints, which leads to headaches or migraines if left untreated for long periods of time.
Pain medication might help temporarily relieve some of these symptoms but won't address the underlying issue: airway obstruction caused by misalignment of the jaws!
Mouth breathing is another common symptom of this problem that affects millions around the world every night. If someone with severe malocclusion and jaw alignment breathes through their mouth all night long without changing positions, their tongue and can block off part of their airway.
Mouth Breathing Symptoms
Being able to identify if you have developed a habit of mouth breathing is an important step towards finding a solution to airway issues. Here are some common symptoms of mouth breathing.
- Dry mouth
- Bad breath
- Excessive tiredness
Irritability could also be a sign that something is wrong with your airway passage! If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or someone else around you, it's time for an appointment with an orthodontist! The sooner you treat your mouth breathing, the better off you'll be!
How An Orthodontist Diagnoses The Problem
When an orthodontist diagnoses the problem, they will examine your teeth, jaw, and facial structure to determine whether you have airway obstruction.
The orthodontist will also ask you about your breathing habits such as:
- How often do you snore?
- Do you wake up in the morning with a stiff neck or sore throat?
- Do you breathe through your mouth when sleeping or talking?
If you're having trouble breathing while sleeping, treatment may include devices to correct malocclusions. Typically this will require braces — either self-ligating, ceramic, or traditional metal braces.
However, in more severe cases where the jaw is too small, devices called expanders are used to widen the mouth to allow more room for the tongue, which helps with airway problems.
An orthodontist attaches the expander to your teeth with bands or wires that have been placed around each tooth individually (not on braces). As time goes by and your jaw grows, this allows for more space inside your mouth so you'll be able to breathe better at night.
Ask Your Orthodontist
Every person's breathing problems are different, but they can be treated effectively if you get the right care. If you have any kind of breathing problem, it's important to talk to a doctor or orthodontist.
If you're concerned about how much treatment will cost, don't worry! There are many options that may be covered by insurance. To find out more about what services might be covered and how much they'll cost, ask your orthodontist in advance for their recommendations on the best way for you to get the level of care that works best for your situation and budget.
We hope you've gained a better understanding of how airway issues can cause breathing problems and what you can do if you're experiencing them. If you're experiencing breathing problems, be sure to visit your orthodontist right away.
Treating airway issues sooner rather than later can help prevent long-term complications and keep you healthy for years to come!
Schedule your appointment today!
If you’re looking to take the next step with your or your child’s orthodontic care, give Hillam Orthodontics a call today!