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What is Airway Centered Dentistry?

What is Airway Centered Dentistry, might you ask?

To answer that question, we first need a little history lesson. There are some very interesting things that have been happening to us as human beings over the past several hundred years. But they have seriously accelerated during the past 80 or so years. Here is a very abbreviated history.

If you have been doing any research on Dr. Weston Price, you will know that he wrote a book called “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.” He studied the 14 longest lived societies on the planet and tried to figure out what they had in common. He discovered out that they had the lowest rates of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, among other things. Because he was a dentist, he also looked at their teeth and their dental and jaw development. That makes us very lucky people indeed, because he THOUGHT to look at their teeth. Unfortunately, the medical profession tends to look past the teeth and don’t even think of the teeth as an integral part of the body. Dr. Price believed that oral health and systemic health were intimately and intricately connected. This is why many consider him to be the father of Biological dentistry.

Anyway, going back to Dr. Price’s research, he discovered that the longest-lived societies also had the best teeth – their jaws were well developed and broad, their teeth were straight, and they had very little dental decay or gum disease. THAT was a fascinating finding, because at the time, Dr. Price was seeing a huge increase in dental decay and periodontal disease in modern society patients. The societies he studied were from all over the world. They were unconnected – meaning – they were pristine – they really did not participate in modern world things, and they were disconnected from each other – from the Inuit in Alaska to the Native tribes of Africa.

What all of the societies had in common was a diet high in saturated fats (something that the modern medical establishment has been telling us is a bad thing), high in fermented foods (things like pickles, kombucha, kvass, kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi), high in mineral rich bone broths (these societies lived snout to tail, and wasted nothing, not even the bones of the animals they ate), as well as no real processed sugars. Even things like honey and maple syrup were a rare, occasional treat, not the norm. In contrast, modern society has increasing numbers of people with rotten, crooked teeth, poor periodontal health, and much higher rates of cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, and other modern diseases.

The other significant researcher to have done some seriously important work was Francis Pottenger. If you research a book called “Pottenger’s Cats”, it’s fascinating! PETA would have been up in arms at the research that Mr. Pottenger did, because while studying the effects on nutrition on cats, he removed their adrenal glands. Putting aside the animal ethics, the research was the first of its kind to prove that nutritional injury was a real thing, and that it could affect succeeding generations.

To summarize Mr. Pottenger’s research, what he did was study what diet did to cats. Cats are SUPPOSED to eat raw meat and raw milk. They are carnivores. So, Mr. Pottenger fed a group of the cats he studied their natural diet. But he fed other groups of cats different diets. One group got pasteurized milk. One group got powdered milk. One group got evaporated milk. One group got sweetened condensed milk. And then he simply let them do what animals do – they procreated. What he found was that the first generation of cats after the initial dietary changes got crooked teeth. The second generation of cats got scoliosis in addition to even more crooked teeth. The third generation had hip dysplasia’s, scoliosis and crooked and congenitally missing teeth and were starting to have fertility issues. And by the fourth generation, the cats began having reproductive issues.

This is the concept of epigenetic generational nutritional injury. In other words, what your grandparents ate/failed to eat, might eventually come to haunt you. Mr. Pottenger discovered that it took 3 generations to do that damage. And 9 generations to UNDO it!

What does all of this have to do with Airway Centered Dentistry?

Well, if you take Mr. Pottenger’s research and apply it to humans, what are we noticing about our modern society’s ailments? Where crooked teeth used to be a fairly rare thing, MOST people nowadays have VERY crooked teeth. Very few people can get away with NOT needing some kind of orthodontic care. Very few people have enough room for their wisdom teeth. And it turns out that other parts of his research are playing true. Most of us know someone who has back problems, or scoliosis, or degenerative discs. That was quite rare 100 years ago. And almost ALL of us have either experienced infertility or have close friends who are experiencing infertility. Meaning, epigenetically speaking, we are on the cusp of generation 3 and 4, if we apply the same timeline of degenerative conditions from Mr. Pottenger’s research to what is happening in our own society. OUR AIRWAYS ARE COLLAPSING! Dr. Price showed us what our teeth are supposed to look like and how our nutrition should look for optimal human health. Mr. Pottenger showed us what happens when we screw the nutrition up over the generations.

Now, putting ALL of that together – Dr. Scott was among the first dentists in the US to become educated on the effects of an ineffective airway on our overall health. She and Dr. Perry have undertaken the continuing education necessary to be able to diagnose and treat airway inadequacies, and to understand what that means in terms of not just oral health, but systemic health. When you choose to consult with Dr. Scott and Dr. Perry for your dental work, your exam will also include an airway assessment. If either Doctor finds that your airway is compromised, based on criteria that they have learned from their extensive continuing education, they will be sure to inform and educate you as to what your options are.  We prefer to use non surgical options in our office if at all possible.

Why would Airway Centered Dentistry be needed?

Airway Centered Dentistry focuses on the fact that Breathing = life, and an insufficient airway can cause us to not get enough air to meet our body’s needs. Breathing problems can produce health issues elsewhere in your body, which can vary considerably from individual to individual. However, they can impact both your oral and systemic health significantly if left untreated.

Often, one of the early warning signs of sleep apnea & sleep disordered breathing is the disturbance of the natural sleeping cycle by snoring, grinding, clenching or gritting. The snorer likely doesn’t know these disruptions are even occurring. While snoring itself can keep your bed partner awake, it can also represent a serious health risk. And grinding, clenching or gritting of the teeth will destroy teeth, either by wear, fracture, or abfraction.

Addressing airway-related issues is vital because they can lead to various health complications. For instance, untreated sleep apnea can increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, hypertension, and stroke. Moreover, impaired breathing during sleep can disrupt the quality of rest, resulting in daytime fatigue, decreased cognitive function, and a diminished quality of life. Airway Centered Dentistry aims to identify the root causes of these issues and provide effective treatment options to enhance breathing, promote better sleep, and improve overall health.

Who would be a candidate for Airway Centered Dentistry?

Are any of these issues problematic for you?

  • Do you suffer from clenching, grinding, or gritting your teeth?
  • Do you have a history of having to have an expander for braces?
  • Does your tongue have teeth marks on it from pressing your tongue up against your teeth all the time?
  • Do you snore?
  • Have you been diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)? As many as 30 million Americans suffer from OSA while reportedly an estimated 10 million more remain still undiagnosed.
  • Do you wake yourself up from sleep gasping or choking?
  • What about chronic headaches, neck aches, or backaches?
  • Do your jaws pop or click when you open and close your mouth?
  • How is your blood pressure? A little bit high?
  • What about your blood sugar? Is it high?
  • Are you struggling with your weight?
  • Have you had teeth removed for orthodontic reasons?
  • What about your digestion? Is it great? Or do you have bowel issues?
  • What about anxiety or depression?
  • Do you feel anxious often?

If any of these apply to you, you should determine whether airway issues are involved.

Individuals who exhibit signs of compromised breathing, sleep-related disorders, or other airway-related problems may be suitable candidates for Airway Centered Dentistry. Some common indicators that could suggest the need for this specialized dental approach include:

  • Chronic snoring: Loud, persistent snoring that disrupts sleep patterns for the individual and their partner.
  • Sleep apnea: Episodes of interrupted breathing during sleep, resulting in abrupt awakenings, gasping, or choking sensations.
  • Bruxism: Excessive teeth grinding or clenching, often associated with sleep disturbances and worn tooth surfaces.
  • TMJ disorders: Pain, stiffness, or dysfunction in the jaw joint, often accompanied by headaches, facial pain, or difficulty opening and closing the mouth smoothly.
  • Restricted nasal airflow: Chronic congestion, sinus issues, or breathing difficulties through the nose.
  • Enlarged tonsils or adenoids: Inflammation or obstruction of these structures, potentially contributing to airway problems.
  • Poor sleep quality: Frequent fatigue, daytime drowsiness, or difficulty concentrating due to disrupted sleep patterns.

It is important to consult with a qualified Airway Centered Dentistry professional who can evaluate your specific symptoms and provide appropriate guidance and treatment options.

What happens during an Airway Assessment?

The Airway Evaluation begins with a comprehensive evaluation by the dentist, who will conduct a thorough examination of the patient's oral cavity, airway, and related structures. This examination may involve the use of advanced diagnostic tools, such as 3D imaging, airway imaging, and computerized analysis.

Based on the evaluation findings, the dentist will develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to the patient's specific needs. The treatment plan may include a combination of therapeutic interventions, depending on the nature and severity of the airway-related issues. These interventions can include:

  • Oral appliance therapy: Customized oral appliances are designed to help reposition the jaw and tongue to improve airflow during sleep, reducing snoring and treating mild to moderate sleep apnea.
  • Orthodontic treatment: In some cases, orthodontic interventions, such as braces or aligners, may be recommended to correct dental and skeletal misalignments that contribute to airway obstruction.
  • Myofunctional therapy: This therapy focuses on strengthening the muscles of the face and mouth to improve breathing patterns, swallowing, and overall oral function.
  • Collaborative care: Airway Centered Dentistry professionals often work closely with other healthcare specialists, such as sleep medicine physicians, ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialists, respiratory therapists, Airway Centered Orthodontist, Myofunctional therapist, Orofacial Myologist, Craniosacral therapist, Atlas Orthogonist, Postural Restoration Therapist, Airway centered Periodontist and Airway centered oral surgeon in the specialists to provide comprehensive care and ensure optimal outcomes for patients. Many airway patients are complex, and they require collaboration with multiple specialists working to their ultimate benefit to undo the damage that the inadequate airway has wrought on their provide comprehensive care and ensure optimal outcomes for patients.

The Airway Centered Dentistry team will prioritize patient comfort, education, and engagement. They will guide patients through the treatment process, addressing any concerns or questions they may have, and provide ongoing support to help achieve and maintain optimal oral health and improved airway function.

Remember, each patient's treatment plan will be tailored to their specific needs and circumstances. It is essential to consult with a qualified Airway Centered Dentistry professional to determine the most suitable approach for your individual situation.