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Respiratory Health Links Other vital advances in oral systemic health involve treating airway concerns such as snoring and sleep apnea. “Snor- ing is typically caused by muscles and tissues relaxing in the throat and mouth, resulting in decreased space in the airway passage and vibration of tissues. Eventually, individuals can develop sleep apnea, which can also result in hy- pertension and other problems,” advises Milligan.


In sleep apnea, the sleeper’s breath- ing pauses often or produces hypopnea, slowed or shallow breathing for 10 or more seconds at a time. Fewer than five episodes per hour is normal, with five to 15 considered mild apnea, 15 to 30 moderate and more than 30 severe. Although 20 percent of Americans


may have sleep apnea—typically as- sociated with insomnia, tiredness and less oxygen in the body—95 percent of affected individuals go undiagnosed.


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To help, Milligan suggests that before going to bed we lower the thermostat in the bedroom and avoid drinking alcohol, smoking, watching television or working on a computer. Improved breathing helps assuage snoring, sleep apnea, asthma, hay fever and nasal congestion. Milligan cites Patrick McKeown’s work, explained in his book The Oxygen Advantage. An authority on the Buteyko Breathing Method, McKeown explains how im- proved breathing dramatically improves oxygenation, releases more energy and supports lifelong health and well-being. Muscle retraining using orofacial


myofunctional therapy can help prevent sleep apnea and also abate temporo- mandibular joint disorders. This new field is concerned with orofacial func- tional patterns and postures when teeth are apart, their status 95 percent of each day and night. It also retrains muscles to keep the tongue at the roof of the mouth and the lips together to prevent breath- ing through the mouth, correct swal- lowing function and eliminate poor oral habits such as thumb sucking. Three mechanical treatments for sleep apnea include mandibular ad- vancement oral devices used to move the lower jaw forward, a continuous positive airway pressure machine to aid airway functioning, or surgery, which is the last resort. “The real opportunity for catching and preventing this is with children 5 to 10 years old, when their jaws are developing,” says Milligan. He further cites links discovered between the mouth and brain. “Oral spirochetes, which normally live in the mouth, have been found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Dr. Judith Mik- lossy, from the International Association for Alzheimer’s, spoke at an AAOSH conference about the link between oral bacteria and dementia, and Garth Ehrlich, Ph.D., professor of microbiol- ogy, immunology and otolaryngology at Drexel University College of Medi- cine, addressed rheumatoid arthritis and certain types of cancers. All of these links are more than enough reasons why good oral hygiene is essential to good health,” says Milligan.


Linda Sechrist is a senior staff writer for Natural Awakenings. Connect at ItsAllAboutWe.com.


42 Lehigh Valley www.healthylehighvalley.com


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