Wellness and the treatment of sleep and breathing issues are topics that seem to be everywhere right now.

It makes sense. There are a lot of people currently under a huge amount of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. Couple that with the fact that many aren’t eating or exercising as they should, and you know that we could be in for an epidemic of health problems in the near future.

Dr. Jacqueline Schafer of Colorado Healthy Smiles and Colorado Healthy Sleep is at the forefront of treating issues associated with wellness through proper breathing resulting in a good night’s rest. She tells us, “It may seem strange to patients that, as a dentist, I am interested and have been educated in breathing and sleep issues. Let me explain the connection.”

“I have been treating jaw joint pain and dysfunction, broken and crooked teeth for years. The questions I have been asking myself are why do 98% of children need orthodontics? Why do patients grind their teeth? Why am I seeing so many broken and fractured teeth when teeth are made out of the hardest material in the body?”

A few years ago, she found answers to many of these questions, helping to connect the dots for some of the escalating dental problems she had been seeing.

“I learned that the inability to breath through the nose contributes to changes in the shape of the dental arches. It has been shown that the mouth and the face become distorted when we habitually breathe through the mouth. Children develop long narrow faces. The upper and lower arches become so narrow that the teeth do not have enough room to erupt into their correct position, resulting in crowded teeth. Braces are used to straighten the teeth, but that does not necessarily correct the underlying problem. When narrow faces and arches carry into adulthood, many health and dental issues can start to emerge.  When the mouth is narrow, there is no room for the tongue. The tongue becomes suctioned to the roof of the month. If the upper arch is narrow, the tongue flops down and back. When there is no room for the tongue in the mouth it moves into to back of the throat blocking the airway!”

Through extensive coursework at Vivos Therapeutics. Dr. Schafer had an “aha!” moment. It became clear why she was seeing so many of these issues in her dental practice. It also became clear what she needed to do to help her patients.

“I then began to connect the dots on how breathing could affect teeth grinding. Let me talk about what’s normal first; in a resting position, the lips are together, the tongue is suctioned to the roof of the mouth, the teeth are separated, and you are breathing through the nose. This is the correct mouth position for both daytime and for nighttime while you sleep. During sleep, if the airway is blocked by the tongue, the unconscious mind will do whatever it takes to keep the airway open. One method is to slide the lower jaw forward to open the airway. The teeth are clamped together, and the facial muscles are engaged helping to keep the lower jaw in a forward position. Over time this can cause damage to the teeth resulting in fractures and breaking. The jaw joint does not like to be in the forward position. It causes too much fatigue and strain on the muscles and delicate structure of that joint. The result is TMJ pain and dysfunction. This structural change presents as headaches, neck pain, sore facial muscles, sore teeth, and a multitude of other signs and symptoms.”

Dr. Schafer has long been an expert in the treatment of TMJ, but this correlation between breathing and dental work took her by surprise…just as many of her patients initially wondered why their dentist was speaking to them about snoring!

“You’ve heard that the foot bone is connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone is connected to the leg bone, the leg bone is connected to the knee bone, etc.? Well, the same type of thing happens with your mouth. Not only does your mouth hold your teeth. The tongue, the roof of your mouth, your breathing…they ALL help to promote wellness. So it only makes sense that your dentist would be the one to turn to if you’re having breathing or sleep concerns.”

To find out more and take a self-assessment, visit https://coloradohealthysleep.com/self-assessment/