What You Need to Know About Snoring and Jaw Development

By Paul R. Ehrlich, Ph.D. & Sandra Kahn, D.D.S., M.S.D

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Snoring, disturbed sleep and dentistry

But what do snoring and disturbed sleep have to do with dentistry? The answer is poor jaw development, an increasingly common trait that medical professionals have traced back 10,000 years to environmental changes caused by the agricultural revolution.[5] It was during this period that vocational specialization became possible, and workers diversified into mechanics, priests, soldiers, scientists and so on. That, in turn, led to industrialization, and tremendous changes to the way people lived and ate. For example, pre-industrial children nursed for years and were weaned directly onto the tough, chewy foods that their parents ate.[6] Suddenly, children were weaned much earlier and transitioned into a diet of soupy “baby foods” that required little to no chewing.[7]

There is more to snoring than chewing

There is more to snoring than chewing, however. Today’s humans spend the majority of their lives indoors, where the substances that cause allergies, such as dust mites and formaldehyde concentrate. Allergies create stuffy noses, and that leads to mouth breathing.[9] That, in turn, by-passes the natural air cleaning, warming, and humidifying functions for which our noses were designed. Since the bottom of the nose is the top of the upper jaw, this changes the pressure of the air flowing through the nose and mouth roof, further contributing to poor jaw development. This was documented long ago by experiments in which blocking the noses of rhesus monkeys produced great distortions in their jaws. [10]

Bad news, and good

The bad news: snoring is a precursor to sleep apnea, in which the tongue blocks the airway entirely, and the lack of oxygen causes choking, awakening, and triggering of the sympathetic nervous system’s “flight or fight” response. That’s the serious stressor that increases the chances of nasty diseases.[14]

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[1] Ala Al Ali, Stephen Richmond, Hashmat Popat, Rebecca Playle, Timothy Pickles, Alexei I Zhurov, David Marshall, Paul L Rosin, John Henderson, and K. Bonuck. 2015. The influence of snoring, mouth breathing and apnoea on facial morphology in late childhood: A three-dimensional study. British Medical Journal Open 5: doi:10.1136/bmjopen -2015–009027 Ingervall B,Seemann L,ThilanderB.Frequencyofmalocclusion and need of orthodontic treatment in 10-year old children in Gothenburg. Swed Dent J 1972;65:7–21. Bjørk A, Helm S. Need for orthodontic treatment as reflected in various ethnic groups. Acta Socio Med Scand 1969; 14(suppl):209–14.

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