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  • Writer's pictureSecond Opinion Magazine

Breathe Easier in 2016

You may be surprised to know that if your jaw isn’t in alignment, you can suffer from breathing issues. The Q & A below will help clarify what you need to know and how you can get help.

How does the misalignment affect breathing?

To begin to answer that question, we would actually start with a different question: How did their dysfunctional breathing and dysfunctional swallow cause the misalignment of their teeth?

The importance of correct breathing (the right amount of air, correct number of breaths per minute while using proper body mechanics) and its impact, either positively or negatively, affect proper jaw growth and subsequent tooth alignment. (

If the mouth is the main source for breathing, oral development is impeded. The upper palate (jaw) will be smaller than the lower (reverse of what is normal) due to constant tongue pressure pushing on the lower instead of the upper. A dysfunctional swallowing problem comes from the upper front teeth being too far back, trapping the lower jaw and affecting breathing as well as the epiglottis/throat function. There can be a problem with swallowing actually causing fluid to accumulate in the lungs, which may lead topneumonia. For videos showing the proper swallow verses improper swallow and their effect on tooth alignment see It is unnatural for a person—even more so a child—to sleep with their mouth open. The correct position of the tongue is at the roof of the mouth and the lips together at rest, and in this position it provides support for the eruption of the teeth and the proper position of the jaws and growth of the jaws.

When the teeth and the jaws are out of alignment what type of problems might someone be presented with?

Improper tongue function, which is in direct correlation with teeth and jaw alignment, can manifest itself as: headaches, neck ache, back aches, TMJ/jaw problems, grinding of the teeth, on-edge feelings, airway problems, stomach, digestive, and absorption problems.

Can you describe the treatment you offer to address these conditions of dysfunctional swallowing, crowding of teeth, dysfunctional breathing, TMJ issues, and sleep disturbance?

Problems with the jaw can be treated by stimulating growth of the jaws, realigning the teeth, bringing the lower jaw down and forward, retraining the tongue, slowing down the breath, increasing the diaphragm function, improving the overall neuromuscular balance of the craniosacral system, as well as using braces or appliances that can improve cranial functioning.

We also refer patients to other healthcare practitioners to address issues such as neuromuscular dysfunction, nutrition, homeopathy, metal toxicity, body alignment, and acupuncture meridian therapy.

Treatment time varies from case to case, dependent upon the patient’s desired outcome. Some symptomatic treatment can change breathing/oxygen/CO2 balance in as little as one visit.  Other cases, where jaw expansion, teeth alignment, and TMJ therapy are necessary, may take from two to four years. It’s not unusual for us to begin that treatment at four or five years of age to reduce crowding in the front part of themouth. Starting with young children, we avoid extraction of baby and permanent teeth and improve jaw development and function of the whole person.

How common is this issue?

These issues with breathing and sleep disturbance are considered to affect approximately 30 percent of the general population. Probably between 50 to 70 percent of the general population, have some degree of difficult.

Does insurance usually cover jaw alignment?

Insurance coverage for some of these procedures is totally dependent on the type of policy. Some patients have orthodontic coverage some have medical coverage in their policy which is also affected by the amount of money paid to the insurance company. Some opinions state that, generally speaking, the more you pay for insurance, the better the coverage.

Are there any risks or side effects to the treatment?

Compared to surgery (including extraction of teeth), there are very few contraindications. One thing that we encourage is therapeutic homework and cooperation. The patient’s level of cooperation and the level of difficulty of the case play a paramount role in success.

When should someone breathe through their mouth as opposed to their nose?  

Generally speaking, we should breathe through our mouth as often as we eat through our nose.  During strenuous exercise we sometimes need to mouth breathe. However, Dr. John Douillard of Boulder, Colorado, believes in training with nose breathing. ( Mouth breathing can be influenced by what wedo, what we are eating, and what causes us stress, real or imagined.  The influence of the modern diet ( and known/unknown pollutants have caused many allergies that can manifest themselves, among many other ways, as a plugged nose, forcing us to breathe through the mouth. Mouth breathing, in turn, causes the oxygen/CO2 levels to fall out of balance making the nose close off even more. Thus the vicious cycle starts.

How could we encourage our dentist to evaluate complimentary/integrative dentistry?

You could ask the following questions:

• Do you see tongue function as a factor affecting breathing?

• Have you studied cranial osteopathy or cranial sacral therapy

Dr. John Laughlin III, DDS and Dr. John Reed, DDS, Health Centered Dentistry, River Falls, WI

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