top of page
Airway orthodontist for children

AIRWAY ORTHODONTICS

A healthy airway is the foundation for proper breathing, sleep, and function.

What is Airway Orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a lot more than straight teeth and a beautiful smile.  At Godley Family Orthodontics, we are focused on the overall health of our patients.  One of the considerations we take into account is healthy breathing and development.  Certain jaw irregularities and oral habits can lead to Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB).  Airway Orthodontics refers to orthodontic methods with a consideration for the airway.

Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent complications that can affect a growth, cognitive development, behavior, and wellness.

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a  breathing disorder in which the airway closes off during sleep.  This causes the body to go into "fight or flight" survival mode.  Cortisol is released, the heart rate increases, and muscles are activated to force breathing.  Deep restorative sleep is disrupted as the body tries to catch a breath. Relaxation then occurs, and the cycle continues.  This is hard on the body and can have a profound impact on quality of life, as it can negatively affect the immune system, hormone production, learning and memory, and other body functions.  

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

What to look for in children and adults

PEDIATRIC

  • Teeth grinding

  • Snoring

  • Gasping during sleep

  • Morning headaches

  • Bed-wetting

  • Mouth breathing

  • Restless sleep

  • ADHD like symptoms

  • Hyperactive

  • Difficulty concentrating 

  • Daytime sleepiness

  • Irritability

  • Sleep walking

  • Tongue tie

  • Failure to grow

ADULT

  • Teeth grinding

  • Snoring

  • Gasping during sleep

  • Frequent waking up at night

  • Morning headaches

  • Mouth breathing

  • Restless sleep

  • Difficulty concentrating 

  • Daytime sleepiness

  • Irritability

  • Sleep walking

  • Difficulty controlling medical conditions (diabetes, hypertension, obesity, etc.)

airway orthodontics

TREATMENT IN GROWING PATIENTS

Orthodontists have the ability to change the size and shape of the airway in growing patients

For our pediatric, growing patients:

  • To determine if airway obstruction is the issue at hand, your doctor may order tests.

  • Treatment may include referral to another specialist, such as an ear nose and throat (ENT) physician, sleep physician, or myofunctional therapist.  

  • If oral appliances are recommended, an orthodontist can design an appliance to expand the palate and nasal passages, open the airways, or position the lower jaw forward to allow maximum airflow.  Commonly used appliances are referred to as a rapid palatal expander (RPE) and mandibular advancement device (MADs).  Only some children benefit from such devices.

  • Reduction of obstructive tissues (removal of tonsils/adenoids or allergy) may be advised.

  • Your doctor will work with you to find the most appropriate treatment for your child's sleep apnea.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is the best age to bring your child in for an airway evaluation?

 

The best age is as soon as it is suspected there are airway issues, our youngest patient is 4 years old.  We can make a big difference for young children with simple treatment. The sooner we recognize an airway issue, the greater the chances of achieving harmonious growth and development.

What are the risks of airway obstruction?

 

Airway obstruction will alter the way a child’s jaw and airway form.  Early diagnosis is key to preventing the need for surgical correction when the patient is older.  For children, an obstructed airway can lead to poor sleep quality, impaired cognitive function, and developmental issues.  Untreated obstructive sleep apnea in adults increases risk for insulin resistance, coronary artery disease, heart failure, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart arrhythmias.

What might be involved in treatment of the airway for kids?

 

Your doctor may order tests to determine if airway obstruction is the issue at hand.  Orthodontists have the ability to change the size and shape of the airway in our growing patients using specific appliances.  Treatment may include referral to another specialist, such as an ear nose and throat (ENT) physician, sleep physician, or myofunctional therapist.  If oral appliances are recommended, an orthodontist can design an appliance to expand the palate and nasal passages, open the airways, or position the lower jaw forward to allow maximum airflow. Commonly used appliances are referred to as a rapid palatal expander (RPE) and mandibular advancement device (MADs).  Only some children benefit from such devices. Your doctor will work with you to find the most appropriate treatment for your child's sleep apnea.

Is bedwetting a sign of an airway problem?

 

Yes, it can be.  Obstruction of a child's airway causes breathing to repeatedly stop during sleep and their brain has to work harder to take in oxygen.  While the brain is working harder to take in oxygen, it slacks off on controlling other bodily functions. This includes hormone release and bladder pressure.  Not only does obstructed breathing affect the bladder’s ability to hold urine, it also triggers hormones that increase urine production.  This can lead to wetting the bed at night.

Book a Complimentary Consultation with Dr. Godley

bottom of page