The infant child is born as an obligate nasal breather which fosters proper craniofacial development via a natural feeding and breathing pattern. The most important and immediate physiologic function at birth is the maintenance of breathing which is driven at the level of the brain stem. This necessary function trumps all other non-autonomic physiologic functions as it is the CNS’ (central nervous system) drive to keep the individual alive from one second to the next with less concern for all other physiologic functions occurring from one moment to the next. This reality does not change for the lifetime of the individual and all physiologic systems are influenced accordingly. With that said, proper craniofacial growth and development is initially driven by brain development in the first 2 years of life followed by facial development in the following several years. The development of the airway is the “keystone” for facial development (Enlow) and is the major factor in determining gnathologic function and development as well as proper physiologic sleep and diurnal breathing function. These events are not solely driven by genetics as was previously believed and in fact are strongly influenced by epigenetic (“above the genes”) factors (environment).
This premise provides the context for the curriculum described below. It is a sea-change in how we see the role of the dentist, orthodontist and all related healthcare providers. Sleep disordered breathing, Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD), dental crowding, bruxism/clenching, craniofacial distortions, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), ARCD (Airway Related Craniofacial Dysfunction) and many other medical sequelae are considered signs and symptoms of the deficient airway in the vast majority of case.
It is our goal to provide a foundation to provide a wellness approach to dental health and development versus disease management of the various associated signs and symptoms. It is much more than about teeth, gums, muscles and joints. This approach does not obviate traditional dental intervention, but rather enhances its delivery and clinical outcomes by taking a global approach to the many problems we manage on a daily basis.