As I mentioned in our last blog, we will be describing various connections between oral health and systemic (or total body) health. Today, I’d like to report on a very interesting class which I attended about a week ago. This was an Invisalign Study Club meeting which was meant to increase our skills in planning Invisalign orthodontic cases. But, every now and then, we watch a gifted speaker provide you with much more information than the announced topic would suggest.
My longtime patients know that I have been a lifelong student of dentistry and especially occlusion’s (the bite’s) role in preserving dental health for the long term. I have studied the various connections between occlusion and overall health including TMD and head/neck pain, occlusion and advancing gum disease, as well as occlusion and the airway to name but a few.
Well, at this particular lecture, the speaker showed slides of various patients with crowded teeth as well as some with narrow dental arches. Many of these patients, like many of those I see every day in my office, have what we call, tori, on the inside of their lower jaws. Patients are often aware of these tori, most are generally not bothered by them, but some ask if they should be concerned about them. I had always considered these to be a sign of patients who are chronic clenchers of their teeth, and many of them are. However, the speaker made a legitimate case for the chronic growth of these tori in patients whose teeth are tipped towards the tongue.
But perhaps I am getting off of the point. The combination of people who have narrow jaws and tooth crowding are very likely to have sleep apnea. I have always known that there is a connection between narrow jaws and sleep apnea, but this presentation made it so clear that patients like those described above do not have adequate space in their mouth for their tongues. As a result, their tongues are forced back into their airways, and the result is sleep apnea.
Such patients may have had orthodontics when they were children,and had four teeth extracted because of their crowding. Such patients are quite likely to have sleep apnea because their jaws are narrow and their teeth have been moved back to where the tongue wants to be to close the space created by the extracted teeth. The tongue is thereby forced to rest towards the airway. Now, I am considering whether or not to treat such patients orthodontically to expand their arches. This is one means of improving their airways and reducing their likelihood of developing obstructive sleep apnea.
When such patients come to my office, they must be carefully screened for obstructive sleep apnea, high blood pressure, adult onset diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other systemic issues which are related to obstructive sleep apnea.
If you have a bite which sounds like the type that I have described above, please contact us so that we can perform a proper screening for obstructive sleep apnea. If you have any questions about your occlusion or sleep apnea, please feel free to contact us by telephone at 609.359.6655 or via our website at www.DesignsForDentalHealth.com