The development of sleep disordered breathing
Heads are complex because they are composed of an astonishing array of diverse organs and tissues in a comparatively small, restricted space. In an average adult human, these structures include 22 bones with hundreds of ossification centers (centers from which the bone grows) 32 teeth, dozens of muscles, the brain, the organs of balance, olfactory bulb, along with nerves and other tissues.
Less than optimal development of these structures can lead to crowding or impaired functionality of the airway. This often begins early in life, as the infant transitions from nursing to eating. The infantile swallowing pattern is usually lost between 18 and 24 months of age, but sometimes it is retained with the adult and that actually will affect the way the face grows.
When infantile swallowing pattern is not lost, the tongue remains low. These individuals may thrust their tongues, or they may mouth breathe as a result of that. What this does is it causes the face to grow in a less than optimal direction – a longer face as opposed to a more forward face that gives more tongue space and unencumbers the airway and there are many studies to show that. That is why myofunctional therapy to reestablish normal tongue function is very important. Studies have shown that it can help individuals who have sleeping problems or airway problems because they never lost that infantile swallowing pattern.
Sleep disordered breathing in young adults
CPAP is a machine that forces air into the airway via a mask worn by the patient, which compensates for the lack of oxygen going to the brain. However, studies have shown that most people do not comply with that treatment long-term. This treatment is most often used by apnea patients in their seventh or eighth decade.
With upper airway resistance syndrome, by its definition, we are working with a much younger patient. It is important to look ahead, and realistically ask, "Is this patient going to be doing this for the next 40 years?" The younger patient using that treatment for decades can experience some real side effects on the face and facial structure, and it is just not likely that individual will use that for that period of time. With the young adult patient, the best treatment is usually orthotropics and myofunctional therapy.
If you have concerns about sleep apnea, or other sleep disordered breathing related conditions, call (949) 661-1006 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Cruz today.