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Does orthodontic treatment cause sleep apnea?

Posted in Adults, Airway, Alberta, British Columbia, Children, General, Orthodontics, Phase 1 Treatment, Phase 2 Treatment, Related Conditions, Teens, Tips & Advice

Is there a link between orthodontics and sleep apnea, and can orthodontic treatment actually cause sleep apnea? Our orthodontists in BC and Alberta discuss findings, and how we can help treat airway problems.

Sleep Apnea & Orthodontics

At myORTHODONTIST, our orthodontists specialize in straightening teeth and repairing bites. While orthodontics has traditionally focused on dental health, the area of sleep and dental sleep medicine is growing rapidly. As such, one of our highest priorities has become maintaining the physiological function of the airway.

By taking an airway-focused approach to treatment, we can effectively treat patients with airway problems that we may otherwise have only been able to relieve temporarily.

While orthodontists do not diagnose obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), we may notice symptoms during an orthodontic assessment and refer you to a doctor or sleep specialist who can formally diagnose the condition. We can also assess individuals with diagnosed sleep apnea who may be experiencing an orthodontic condition and related airway issues that require treatment.

The teeth are close to the nasal cavity, throat and tongue, motivating some to suggest that there may be a relationship between the position of a person's teeth and the prevalence of this sleep disorder.

Through the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), the orthodontic specialty conducted a review of more than 4,000 scientific studies to determine if there is any relationship between orthodontics and OSA. The study's results were published in 2019.

What's behind the belief that orthodontic procedures cause sleep apnea?

Some people contend orthodontic procedures actually cause sleep apnea, as they believe that any treatment that moves the front teeth backward must "logically" push the tongue back the same amount.

They reason that if the tongue is pushed back, the airway becomes blocked, causing apnea or hypopnea (partial or complete obstruction of the airway).

Which orthodontic procedures have been blamed for causing sleep apnea?

Sometimes, through an orthodontic assessment, an orthodontist will determine that the front teeth should be moved backward.

Traditionally, a range of treatment options including headgear, extraction and jaw reduction surgery have been used to accomplish this.

What treatment options do you offer?

Our team at myORTHODONTIST offers an integrated approach to orthodontics, with a focus on dento-facial balance, guiding proper jaw growth and development, and airway issues as contributors to full-body health.

We thoroughly assses and recommend treatment customized to yours or your child's needs. From early-stage, preventive treatment for children as young as 5 years old to orthodontic solutions for teens and adults, we offer a variety of options, avoiding extractions and invasive surgery when possible.

Depending on a patient's needs, our treatment options include:

We find that combining early assessment and intervention and a 2-phase, non-invasive approach to treatment with our commitment to focusing on dentofacial balance and improving airway issues may lead to better treatment outcomes, increased opportunity for long-term oral health, and potentially less treatment time required in the future.

Is there any evidence that orthodontic treatment causes sleep apnea?

The AAO task force reviewed thousands of articles, in the end finding that no evidence supports the claim that moving front teeth backwards causes sleep apnea.

Further, as of this writing, no orthodontic procedure, including headgear, extraction, jaw reduction surgery and the treatment options we offer, have been shown to cause sleep apnea.

Airway-Focused Orthodontics Treatment for Sleep Apnea at myORTHODONTIST

Sleep apnea is one of many symptoms of airway problems, which people of all ages can exhibit. It is also a serious medical condition that can negatively effect the health of individuals in both the short-term and long-term.

Other symptoms of airway issues include mouth breathing, excessive daytime sleepiness, grinding, snoring, dark circles under the eyes ("panda" eyes) and more.

Taking preventive measures and treating airway issues early can help you and your orthodontist stay ahead of issues that may otherwise develop into larger problems. 

By creating a custom orthodontic treatment plan that focuses on airway passages, we can help promote effective breathing and help reduce the risk of sleep apnea. 

Are you or your child experiencing sleep apnea or other symptoms of airway issues? Contact our BC and Alberta orthodontists to learn more or schedule an assessment with our orthodontic specialists.

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