Airway Management

The position of your teeth and jaws often determines the size of your airway. The size of your airway influences how well you are able to breathe. How well you are able to breathe affects the quality of your sleep. The quality of your sleep directly determines how healthy you are. It’s that simple.

Sleep apnea is a term that is making its way into the everyday vernacular. Most people have at least heard the term and are somewhat familiar with the disease that is characterized by a lapse in breathing for at least 10 seconds or longer and the accompanying drop in oxygen saturation that occurs with the event. String too many of these events together within the hour and your body starts to suffer and breakdown.

What many people do not realize is that sleep apnea is a progressive disease. You don’t just wake up with it one day when you become middle aged. It often starts as a sleep disordered breathing issue that makes it difficult to breathe. The flow of air is limited or restricted and you struggle to breathe. That struggle initiates the fight of flight response which activates the sympathetic nervous system to help you breathe. That sustained inflammatory response can last many years until you reach the point that your body cannot protect your airway anymore. You eventually stop breathing for several moments at a time because your body is so exhausted that it can’t manage the airway any longer. If you are lucky enough, a health care professional will recognize what is happening and refer you for a sleep study which is the only way to diagnose sleep apnea. In most cases, you will be offered a continuous positive airway appliance or CPAP. If you become non-compliant with that, you will have the possibility of wearing an oral appliance or snore guard to help you breathe better. Unfortunately, these treatment modalities are only controlling the disease not resolving it which means they are not making you healthy over the long term.

As it has been previously discussed, sleep disordered breathing is a progressive disease that often starts when you are a child struggling to breathe. Snoring, mouth breathing, grinding your teeth, restless sleep, sleep walking and talking, drooling, and bed wetting are all night time signs of sleep disordered breathing. Lack of attention and focus along with hyperactivity are some of the daytime signs of SDB. Why is this such a concern?

In order for child to grow and develop normally, they must be able to breathe through their nose, close their lips together, and posture their tongue on the roof of their mouth. This helps the upper and lower jaws to develop correctly and for a favorable growth pattern to ensue. When this does not happen, growth and development are often adversely affected which in turn can affect how a child sleeps.

You see, human beings need sleep to be healthy. Within the sleep cycle, they need a certain amount of deep sleep to take care of the bodily repair that is so critical to health. Deep sleep or N3 sleep allows the adequate release of growth hormone which is so critical for proper growth and development in children. The other critical part of the sleep cycle is the need for an adequate amount of rapid eye movement or REM sleep. This is where all the emotional repair of the body is done throughout the night. A deficit in REM sleep often results in anxiety and depression issues.

Understanding the progressive nature of this disease and that it often starts in childhood is the key to a proactive approach. Treating the sleep disordered breathing issue as soon as the problem is identified is preferred to waiting for the onset of the disease, sleep apnea, and deciding to treat at that time. To put it quite simply, if you and I are comparatively healthy yet I have sleep apnea and you do not, I will die before you.

Here at Dr Matt Gaworski, Orthodontics, our goal is to not only treat your smile needs with straightening or aligning your teeth, but also to assess how your teeth fit together, how your jaw joints function, and most importantly your airway health.

  • Dr. Matt Gaworski Orthodontics - 6140 Tutt Blvd., Suite 250, Colorado Springs, CO 80923 Phone: 719-596-2477

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