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Treatment Options for Adult Patients with Airway Problems

When it comes to treatment options for breathing and airway disorders in adults, I like to divide this up into two components. There are patients that can begin treatment that same day, to help deal with their immediate symptoms. Then there are patients that I must begin planning for more long-term and definitive resolutions.

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Airway Management

Management has to do with 'what can we do right now to open up your airway, particularly during sleep?'. Sometimes, that can be as simple as converting someone from mouth breathing to nasal breathing. In the appropriate situation where they can breathe through their nose, I might try mouth taping, and see how that works

Another thing I like are these trial-type appliances that are called myTAP. They can be used to not only open the vertical, which will sometimes open the airway, but they can also be used to move the horizontal of the mandible to open the posterior airway. You can use nasal dilators like Breathe Right Strips and internal dilators, and for some people, that'll make a big difference. That would be management-type approach, using airway and sleep appliances.

Definitive Resolution 

If I want to move into more definitive resolution of these problems, then I think about things like:

  • Where is the obstruction?
  • Is it in the upper airway?
  • Is it related to nasal congestion due to allergies?
  • Is it related to polyps or a deviated septum? Things that may require intervention surgically by an EMT surgeon.
  • Is it the back of the throat congested by swollen tonsils and adenoids?
  • Is it something that needs to be addressed and removed?
  • Is it because of tongue-tie?

A tongue-tie release will help to improve breathing. If their dental arch is constricted and there's not enough room for the normal-sized tongue, then expanding the dental arch is another definitive type of approach. It's almost like a garden hose going from the tip of your nose down into your throat. Where is the kink or congestion that's preventing free flow of air, and what would it take to reverse it or open it up in a permanent way?

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DeWitt Wilkerson, DMD is the Resident Expert of Integrative Dental Medicine at The Dawson Academy and has been a Senior Faculty Member for over 25 years. Dr. Wilkerson joined Dr. Peter Dawson’s private practice in 1982 and co-owns DuPont & Wilkerson Dentistry in St. Petersburg, Florida with fellow Senior Faculty Member Dr. Glenn DuPont.