In certain cases, orthodontic treatment can help treat sleep apnea, says Audrey Yoon, Orthodontist with Mid Wilshire Dentistry in Los Angeles, California. For patients with very crowded teeth and a narrow jaw, the airway is too narrow and the tongue has nowhere to go, so it falls back in your throat, making it hard to breathe. If the jaw can be widened, the oral airway volume can be increased because the tongue will naturally come forward, helping the sleep apnea.
For patients with a very narrow upper jaw and have trouble breathing through their nose, when the upper jaw is expanded wider, the nose gets expanded as well creating more nasal volume. This is an especially common treatment for children and sometimes it's used with a tonsillectomy to get the maximum resul, Yoon says. For those with a very small lower jaw, we can push the jaw forward using oral appliances to prevent the collapse of the tongue and small tissues, so the airway stays open during treatment.
The other treatment option for very severe cases of sleep apnea involves orthonathic surgery in combination with braces, which has proven to be the most effective surgical treatment for sleep apnea, according to Yoon. This surgery moves the upper jaw and lower jaw to correct the jaw discrepancy. For sleep apnea patients, the surgery focuses on expanding the airway. After the braces are put on, patients are sent to an oral surgeon. Along with the jaw, the tongue and soft tissue of the palate move forward as well to open the airway. The patient's appearance can be dramatically enhanced, along with improving their jaw structurally.
Dr. Audrey Yoon in an orthodontist with Mid Wilshire Dentistry in Los Angeles, California. Dr. Yoon spoke withSleep Better TV, providing online, on-demand sleep breathing disorder and dental news content. Sleep Better TV is a featured network of Sequence Media Group.