The connection between breathing and the jaw

So much of one’s facial balance comes from the shape of the jawline, but did you know that the alignment of the jaw has implications that extend far beyond aesthetics? Facial structure and alignment are very often linked to medical issues, and can even be associated with severe airway problems. Dr. Guarnieri has a special focus on airway dentistry — here’s what sleep-breathing disorders (SBD) involve, and how they can be treated.

What is sleep apnea and upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS)?

UARS is a type of breathing disorder that occurs when one’s airway becomes blocked (either partially or completely) during sleep. These blockages disturb one’s sleep, causing the brain and body to receive inadequate amounts of oxygen. In some cases, these blockages can occur as many as 30 times per hour, which means that sleep quality is particularly poor.

What are the implications of inadequate sleep?

When one does not get enough quality sleep, one may experience both physical and mental consequences. While snoring is one of the most common signs of the condition, some other signs of sleep apnea include daytime sleepiness, low mood, problems with memory, and an inability to concentrate and focus. If left untreated, the condition can also increase the risk of developing some serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity.

How can it be treated?

If you have experienced any of the symptoms of sleep breathing disorder (SBD), Dr. Guarnieri will perform a thorough assessment in which he will examine your mouth, jaw and teeth. He will also conduct an airway evaluation, as this is generally one of the best ways in which it is possible to determine whether a person suffers from a sleep breathing disorder.

If you are diagnosed with the condition, treatment is likely to involve the use of oral appliance therapy, in which case a device that looks much like a mouth guard is used. The device helps to maintain the lower jaw in a forward position, keeping the airway open. Each oral appliance is custom-made to ensure that it fits perfectly.

So, what’s the connection between the jaw and breathing?

The jaws are responsible for one’s ability to open the mouth, so any action that relies on the mouth (eating, speaking, and breathing) is affected by jaw shape and function. The jaws and air passages are essentially a connected system, so correct jaw positioning is essential to ease any jaw pain or obstructed airways.

Dental treatment can go a long way in allowing better breathing at night— either with the use of oral appliances that are designed for optimal breathing, or by means of orthodontic treatment. In the case of orthodontic treatment, one’s bite can be corrected to relieve any uncomfortable symptoms and issues.

What other issues are associated with the shape of jawline?

Interestingly, another airway problem known as upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) is linked to one’s facial structure. A form of sleep apnea, the condition is common in women with delicate bone structures and small setback jaws. While sleep apnea causes a blockage in the airways, UARS is caused by a naturally narrowed air passage, or loose fatty tissues of the throat collapsing back into the airway during sleep. Those with a soft facial bone structure and flattened lower jaw angle are generally at higher risk of developing the condition.

Are you suffering from sleep apnea or other airway issues? Dr. Guarnieri has a special interest in airway dentistry and has received advanced training along with other leading practitioners in the field of medicine and dentistry, including sleep apnea doctors, ENT’s, pulmonologists, and cardiologists. Dr Guarnieri’s knowledge and experience makes Pittsford Dental Excellence Center the ideal place to treat sleep-breathing disorders.

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