TEETH ALIGNMENT AND GOOD SLEEP SHOULD BE MUTUALLY INCLUSIVE
Braces are great for straightening teeth, but pose a challenge to the patient’s experience predisposing those who wear braces to open their mouth and breathe through their mouth due to less oral space and compromised lip seal. Sleep quality diminishes as a result.
The Purpose of Braces
The purpose of braces isn’t just to align crooked teeth. Crooked teeth, also known as malocclusion, are the sign of a much larger issue – soft-tissue dysfunction. This includes the position of the tongue, which affects our airways and may cause snoring, dry mouth, sinus and nasal congestion and disrupted sleep. If the lips and tongue are not in the right position, the crowded teeth and jaws will create a misaligned jaw and crooked teeth. If the jaw shape and function are not correct, there is insufficient room for the teeth in the mouth.
The Vital Role of The Tongue’s Position
- A normal upper jaw is formed when the tongue rests in the area between the upper teeth and counteracts the pressure of the cheeks. But, if the tongue is not maintained in this correct position, the teeth move inwards and create crooked teeth and a narrow jaw.
- When our teeth aren’t aligned correctly, we develop improper tongue position and decreased function of the jaw muscle, and this can affect airways and facial form.
- During sleep the tongue should rest forward, on the roof (hard palate) of the mouth, so the base of the tongue is clear of the airway. This happens when the mouth is closed with the lips together.
- When the mouth opens during sleep the tongue falls from the roof of the mouth and moves back towards the throat and airway.
- When the tongue doesn’t rest on the palate of the mouth, or when someone breathes through the mouth, this adversely affects the jaw’s position. The upper jaw will position the lower jaw down and back, instead of up and forward.
- While an imbalanced jaw can cause tooth crowding and overbites, it also impedes airway space, and it’s a pattern that will only worsen over time.
The Importance of Nasal Breathing
It’s never too soon to seek orthodontic treatment for your child. Begin looking at breathing habits, tonsils and adenoids and sleep patterns from infancy. Remind your child to breathe through their nose with their lips closed. This will cause their tongue to remain positioned on the roof of their mouth, helping to create a healthy, wide upper jaw. It’s never too late to fix this problem if you are an adult, although teeth alignment is more effective if treated earlier in life.
Coping with newly fitted braces is challenging enough, but poor sleep, dry mouth, nasal congestion and nocturnal drooling are mostly avoidable when sleeping with a closed mouth. Minimizing or eliminating the negative impact of braces on sleep quality is important for the patient and clinician.
Control mouth breathing during sleep, even when wearing braces, with sleepQ+.
Updated April 3 2020
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