The airway is the passage through which air flows into and out of the body. It is an essential part of the respiratory system and is necessary for breathing and the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. This airway consists of several structures, including the nose, sinuses, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), and trachea (windpipe). The airway is lined with mucous membranes that help to humidify and filter the air we breathe.
Proper functioning of the airway is essential for good health. If the airway becomes blocked or narrowed, it can interfere with breathing and lead to a range of problems, including sleep apnea, snoring, and respiratory distress. Our clinic has a strong emphasis on the above and we fall under the category of airway dentistry. This is a field of dentistry that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of airway-related problems. This can include problems with the structure of the airway, such as abnormalities of the jaw or tongue, as well as problems with muscle function and coordination.
Airway dentistry may involve the use of dental appliances, such as mandibular advancement devices (MASs) or tongue retaining devices (TRDs), and Myofunctional therapy to help keep the airway open and prevent pauses in breathing during sleep. It may also involve the use of orthodontic treatment to correct incorrect development of the jaw in children or misalignment of the teeth or jaw, which can contribute to airway problems.
As treatment for many adults is limited to devices, we strive and encourage prevention. An early orthodontic evaluation is key to giving your child the best opportunity for jaw and airway development, as children’s bones and jaws will continue to form from the womb to around 17 years of age. There are dental treatments designed to promote this or correct this with the best age being 5-10 years. The aim of the treatment is not only to correct functions and postures of oral musculature, but to also consider the relationships of the upper and lower jawbones, and to improve the alignment of the teeth. It is very important to achieve correct jawbone dimensions and relationships, in order to create balance in the jaw joints, the head/neck muscles, and the teeth before they stop growing when adulthood is reached.
Breathing is so critical to the body image of the autonomic nervous system and for this relationship to remain healthy, it involves maintaining body coherence and proper breathing. If the upper jaw does not develop adequately, optimal breathing is not supported and on-flow effects to lower jaw growth deficiencies can also be seen. The development of the mid-face is the most critical issue in autonomic nervous system coherence (stress, sleep, hormones) and breathing. Our treatment philosophies include forms of removable appliances, along with relevant muscle training that corrects the soft tissue behavior and oral environment. This results in the development of the skeletal bases and positive changes in the position of the teeth by encouraging the already growing jaw.
TMJ & Orofacial Pain
TMD is a group of conditions (temporomandibular disorders) that involve problems with the TMJ and the muscles of the jaw. Clenching and grinding of the teeth can be a significant contributor to TMD and can cause wear and damage to the teeth. Treatment for TMD and clenching and grinding may involve medications, physical therapy, and the use of a mouthguard or splint, and may also involve surgery in more severe cases.
Headaches, facial pain, and difficulty sleeping can be detrimental to your lifestyle as a whole. Simple, everyday things like enjoying your favorite food, listening to music, or receiving a good night’s sleep can become almost impossible. This has the potential to negatively impact your work, social life, and overall happiness.
Thankfully, there is a solution. Our team of TMJ experts and sleep therapy professionals is here to help. We will work with you to diagnose your condition and complete treatment to ensure that you can get back to fully enjoying each day.
What are the causes of TMJ Pain?
There is a cascade of events that take place that eventually leads you to have TMJ pain. The pain could be coming from several areas in the head and that is why we as health professionals need to perform a comprehensive assessment so that a proper diagnosis can be made to treat you appropriately.
These areas consist of the bones, muscles, ligaments, nerves, blood vessels, and cartilage discs (cushion that protects the jawbone from rubbing on the skull bone). Other additional factors include lifestyle, breathing capability, one’s nutrition, and how one sleeps.
A proper dental examination will usually consist of
A complete medical history screening
Our professionals like to look at nutritional, toxic, and stress-related factors to help formulate a history and get to an appropriate root cause.
We will look at the range of motion of the jaw, speed and deviation of opening and closing, joint sounds, internal TMJ, inflammation, and pain. Your sleep will be evaluated with a sleep study which we can refer to or provide you with a take-home test on the day. A sleep study will allow us to determine whether you may have a sleeping disorder that could be contributing to your TMJ pain.
A scan of your head and neck may be suggested to be taken if necessary for further clarity to see if there is any obstruction of your nasal or oral airway.
Our treatment plan may include orthotics or splint therapy and a range of adjunctive therapies such as myofunctional therapy to help alleviate the pain and correct the bite. If we suspect treatment is out of our scope, we will refer you to appropriate specialists who will help.
Most people (around 80%) tend to improve dramatically with our treatment and stay healed. You will be equipped with ongoing tools that you can use in the future in case your symptoms arise again (provided they are due to the same causes).