What is poor airway health?

Poor airway health or Airway-Centered Disorder (ACD) is a hidden airway problem that can affect proper breathing throughout the day. ACD is a structural and physiological condition of the mouth, jaw, nasal passages, tongue, or throat that involves an obstruction of the upper airways. Most reportedly, people suffer poor airway health during their sleep. However, this problem can occur during the day and can manifest into all kinds of other issues the longer it goes undiagnosed and untreated.

Poor airway health often goes underdiagnosed by many professionals who may not be looking at the orofacial structure in a holistic way or its overall function.

Often times, other issues such as fatigue, brain fog, excess weight, headaches, chronic pain, sugar cravings, poor behavior in children, nightmares, allergies, insomnia, and depression, to name a few, can all be explained by looking at airway health.

What are the causes of poor airway health?

Experts in the field have shown that human skulls have been changing over time and that our diets, as a result of the advancements from the Industrial Revolution, have led to changes in our overall facial development. Due to the fact that our foods have become softer, our jaws have become smaller, leading to the crowding of our teeth and a whole myriad of other issues.

For more information, visit the Foundation for Airway Health.

JAWS – The Story of a Hidden Epidemic

Dr. Kahn and Dr. Ehrlich talk about a silent epidemic in western civilization which is right under our noses. Our jaws are getting smaller and our teeth crooked and crowded, creating not only aesthetic challenges but also difficulties with breathing. Modern orthodontics has persuaded us that braces and oral devices can correct these problems. While teeth can certainly be straightened, what about the underlying causes of this rapid shift in oral evolution and the health risks posed by obstructed airways?

Signs and symptoms of poor airway health

As related to the mouth and/or teeth:

  • Bad breath
  • Crowded teeth
  • Deep overbite
  • Grinding or clenching of teeth/tooth wear
  • Large tonsils and/or adenoids, previous tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy
  • Mouth breathing
  • Narrow dental arches
  • Recessive chin
  • Scalloped tongue
  • Speech problems
  • Tongue thrust
  • Teeth removed (other than wisdom teeth)
  • Tongue tie and/or problems nursing during infancy

As related to cognitive and mental health:

  • ADD/ADHD/Dyslexia
  • Anxiety/Depression
  • Learning problems/impairments
  • Memory loss
  • Daytime fatigue

As related to sleep:

  • Bedwetting
  • Loud breathing or snoring
  • Regular arousals or sleep disturbances
  • Restless sleep
  • RLS or leg cramps during the night
  • Sleepwalking or talking
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep

Other signs:

  • Acid reflux/GERD
  • Allergies/Asthma
  • Carbohydrate cravings
  • Dark shading under eyes (“allergic shiners”)
  • Digestive issues
  • Frequent colds/sore throats/tonsillitis/ear infections
  • Headaches/chronic head or neck pain
  • Low iron levels
  • Poor head/body posture

Good and Bad Craniofacial Development

Depicted below, we have a visual that shows what is meant by good versus bad craniofacial development… although this can occur genetically, other myofunctional disorders which can be treated can lead to bad craniofacial development. More than likely, the individual on the top row does not experience any of the signs and symptoms shown above.

Top Row: Good development
Bottom Row: Poor development

Treatment for poor airway health

There are many types of treatments which can occur but the first step is to diagnose the root of the issue.  Your speech therapist can evaluate you or your child for Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMDs) which can lead to referrals to certain specialists as well as specific treatment for the issue.

Fact Check

Did You Know?

The American Dental Association issued a policy in October 2017 that stated dentist should be screening children and adults for sleep disordered breathing – a policy statement that all dentists should be doing this. Unfortunately, most dentists don’t know what this is and are not screening for this. We can help.