Nasal breathing is a natural competence, our ability to do something successfully or efficiently. When we cannot breathe through our noses, we may open our mouths. This is called a compensation, the attempt to make up for a deficiency. Nasal breathing will lead to wide palates and good bone growth, with ample airway. However, the compensation of mouth breathing often leads to narrow palates and smaller airways.
Nasal breathing was one of the examples of compensations that orthodontist, Dr. Barry Raphael, shared at an Airway Focused Dentistry Mini-Residency session. The mini-residency was developed by Dr. Raphael and Dr. Mark A. Cruz, a dentist in Dana Point, to help educate doctors from multiple disciplines about the role of the airway in dentistry. By teaching doctors about this topic, Drs. Cruz and Raphael share a hope the result will be more accurate diagnoses and better treatments for conditions such as malocclusion.
Dr. Raphael shared fever as another example of a compensation, which he explained as our body's ability to fight off infection. However, inflammation in the tonsils makes it more difficult to breathe through the nose. This results in the mouth hanging open, tongue hanging low, palate becoming narrower, muscles being used improperly, face starting to change in shape, and tongue taking on a different function. These factors can lead to crooked teeth.
"This is not about what you inherited from your parents. It's not what you have; it's what you've become," said Dr. Raphael, who has 33 years of experience treating patients.
Dr. Raphael explained certain competencies he wants pediatric patients develop including:
- Breathing through the nose, having the lips together and the tongue on the palate.
- Being able to swallow efficiently with a tongue that can reach the roof of the mouth.
- Breathing through the diaphragm.
- Having good posture.
- Being able to breastfeed with good strong muscles.
- Having good primary cranial respiration, meaning the bones of the skull work in harmony with the systems within it.
Unfortunately, Dr. Raphael often sees compromises or dysfunctions in both pediatric and adult patients that include jaw retrusion, crowded incisors, narrow dental arches, altered swallowing, difficulty in speech, open bite, asthma, fatigue, pain or limited motion, malocclusion, and leaky-gut dysbiosis.
These dysfunctions are a result of the body making up for a deficiency with an accommodation. It is issues such as these that Dr. Raphael, Dr. Cruz, and their colleagues are committed to discussing, with a goal to improve practices in dentistry and medicine.