Breathing profoundly influences our well-being, shaping our body’s ability to flourish or merely survive. The health of our airways plays a pivotal role in our growth and behavior, impacting every cell’s access to oxygen. Compromised airways can lead to a range of adverse effects on our bodies. At de Bruin Dental Center, under the guidance of Tom de Bruin, DDS, we prioritize an airway-centered approach to dental care. This method not only enhances facial aesthetics but also promotes overall health, extending beyond dental concerns to consider the body’s physiological needs.

The Significance of Airway Health in Dentistry

Air is essential for life, with the body’s autonomic nervous system activating survival mechanisms if deprived of oxygen for just a few minutes. These responses, part of the “fight or flight” reaction, include increased heart rate to supply oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, prioritizing the brain. Recognizing and addressing airway obstructions is a cornerstone of our comprehensive exams, ensuring our patients’ health and well-being.

The Consequences of Compromised Airways

Compromised airways often lead to mouth breathing, a shift that can disrupt posture due to the loss of the nasal breathing benefits: air filtration, warming and humidification. Mouth breathing affects posture, encouraging a forward head posture, altering full-body alignment and compromising diaphragmatic breathing. These changes can adversely affect digestive system function, leading to symptoms resembling those of IBS and other conditions.

Dental Impacts and the Role of Dentistry

Dentistry plays a crucial role in identifying and addressing the repercussions of compromised airways. The position of our teeth and their alignment are influenced by the balance of forces between the tongue and the facial muscles. Proper palate expansion, facilitated by the tongue, promotes mid-face growth and, consequently, airway development. Conversely, an underdeveloped mid-face can lead to temporomandibular disorders (TMD) and crowded teeth, often a sign of airway issues. Such crowding can lead to bruxism as the body attempts to open the airway during sleep.

Breathing: Nasal vs. Mouth

Nasal breathing is our body’s preferred method of air intake, offering several defenses against pathogens and ensuring efficient oxygen exchange in the lungs. Conversely, mouth breathing bypasses these mechanisms, leading to a host of issues including elevated blood pressure, decreased oxygen levels and, in children, developmental concerns. Addressing these issues early through orthodontics can significantly improve quality of life by promoting proper breathing, swallowing and posture.

Facial Abnormalities

Facial abnormalities, including conditions often described as “short face” and “long face,” can have significant impacts on an individual’s airway and oral health. These terms broadly describe facial skeletal discrepancies that affect the overall proportions of the face.

A “short face” syndrome is characterized by a reduced vertical dimension of the face. Individuals with this condition may have a decreased lower facial height, leading to a more compressed appearance of the facial features. This condition can result in a number of oral health issues, including increased risk of dental crowding due to limited space in the mouth, which may complicate oral hygiene practices. From an airway perspective, while not as directly impacted as in long face syndrome, the altered structure can sometimes affect nasal breathing, although this is less common.

On the other hand, “long face” syndrome or vertical maxillary excess, involves an increased vertical dimension of the face. This condition often leads to an open bite, where there is a noticeable gap between the upper and lower teeth when the mouth is closed. This malocclusion can impact chewing and speech. Moreover, individuals with a long face syndrome may experience compromised airway health, including obstructive sleep apnea or difficulties with nasal breathing, due to the elongation of the facial structure and its effects on the pharyngeal airway space.

Both conditions underscore the importance of a comprehensive approach to dental care, which includes not only the management of oral health issues but also the consideration of facial skeletal discrepancies that could impact the airway. Early assessment and intervention by dental professionals, possibly in collaboration with orthodontists and other specialists, can help address both the aesthetic concerns and the functional challenges associated with short face and long face syndromes, improving quality of life and overall health for those affected.

Our Approach

Our commitment to airway-centered dentistry emphasizes the need for early intervention. By expanding dental arches and facilitating proper tongue placement, we aim to improve nasal breathing and, by extension, reduce airway resistance. This holistic approach not only addresses malocclusions but also seeks to correct the underlying functional and structural issues, enhancing both physiological health and aesthetic outcomes. We offer the following services to treat your airway health:

Our dentist and team believe in a comprehensive approach to dental care, focusing on airway health to ensure our patients lead healthier, happier lives. This commitment to both functional and aesthetic dentistry underscores our dedication to improving our patients’ quality of life, embracing early orthodontic treatment as a pathway to achieving these goals. Call us at 775-826-1838 to schedule your consultation with Dr. Tomas de Bruin to discuss your options for physiologic dentistry in Reno, Nevada.