Orthodontists are specialists in straightening teeth and fixing bites. As doctors, we are constantly learning and researching the latest, most innovative technologies to bring the best care to our patients. If there is treatment that is better, faster, or less expensive, we want to provide it to our patients. However, at the same time, we have an obligation not to imply we can prevent or cure diseases without proof supporting the claim. Orthodontists are required to conduct research and utilize statistics as part of their training.
So What does this have to do with Sleep Apnea and Orthodontic Training?
One area of medicine that has been of particular interest to the orthodontic world in the past twenty years is OSA, or Obstructive Sleep Apnea. It is not surprising that some have suggested the relationship between tooth position and the prevalence of this disorder is due to the proximity in which the teeth are to the airway.
The American Association of Orthodontics conducted a two year study with 4,000 participants to determine what, if any, relationship exists between orthodontics and sleep apnea. In short, yes, there is a relationship between orthodontics and sleep apnea. But it may not be the only cause for sleep apnea. As the American Association of Orthodontics states, “Although orthodontists can not diagnose and treat sleep apnea on their own, they may be the first medical professionals to recognize symptoms in adults and children…[orthodontists can] work closely with your medical team to help manage the disease.” In November of 2017 the Board of Trustees of the AAO tasked a panel of dental and medical professionals in sleep and dental medicine to create a document to offer guidance to practicing orthodontists on the role of OSA and orthodontic treatment, which we will discuss in a later post.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Orthodontic Treatment
OSA happens when the airway becomes obstructed when muscles relax and/or other obstructions occur to the airway. Properly aligned teeth and jaws can help keep the airway open as muscles begin to relax. Narrow jaws can lead to an obstructed airway. Dr. Hough specializes in jaw growth and development for all ages, with the emphasis on enhancing airway and TMJ function. Additionally, Dr. Hough works with a number of overnight orthodontic appliances designed for the individual needs that can help resolve Obstructive Sleep Disorder and Sleep Apnea.