How Your Airway affects your Oral Health

August 29, 2019

Photo by Valeriia Bugaiova on Unsplash

Do you have an airway problem?

It’s not always a simple question! Signs that you might have an airway problem (where your breathing is suboptimal due to any number of factors) include: 

  • Regular breathing through your mouth
  • Waking up fatigued
  • Needing sleep aids to fall asleep
  • Snoring
  • Sleepiness throughout the day

How can a dentist tell me anything about my airway?

Our doctors examine a number of anatomical structures during your evaluation – we don’t stop at teeth! Certain factors that we note in our assessment may point to an impaired/obstructed airway:

  • Forward leaning head posture
  • Larger neck size
  • The nose: nasal prominence, large turbinates (structures inside the nose), narrow bridge, deviated septum
  • The tongue: large size, irregular shape, tongue tie, where it lays in your mouth at rest
  • TMJ pain or dysfunction
  • Enlarged tonsils

Of course, the teeth and gums tell us a lot too! Bruxism (grinding and clenching) can often be a sign of a breathing problem, as can:

  • Excessive decay or erosion
  • A smile that shows a lot of your gum tissue
  • Small teeth
  • Malocclusion
  • The shape of your arch/jaw

How does my airway/breathing affect my teeth?

Many of the dental signs that point us to a breathing problem are also the negative effects, i.e. decay, eroded enamel, worn teeth from grinding, dry mouth, or a dysfunctional bite. 

What else does my airway affect?

When you aren’t breathing properly, it puts significant physical stress on your body. Among other issues stemming from that, stress causes the release of cortisol, which can lead to:

  • Weight gain
  • Irritability, anxiety, depression
  • Poor memory
  • Poor diabetic control
  • Fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Attention deficit

Ok, I have an airway problem. What can I do to fix it?

First and foremost, consult with your medical and dental professionals to identify the root of the problem – this will help you address the cause! Your doctors will assess and may recommend sleep studies, specialist visits, or various other screening methods.

If something anatomical is causing the issue, surgery or an oral sleep appliance (mandibular advancement device, CPAP, etc.) may be the right answer for you. If habitual, the answer may be as simple as retraining your breathing to breathe more regularly through your nose. 

Have questions for our team about your breathing? Reach out today!