Updated: Aug 19
My "lightbulb" moment
I was a Dental Hygienist for 8 years in a large, modern, general dental practice before I discovered the world of airway health.
On maternity leave with my second child, I began listening to dental podcast episodes on my regular stroller walks through the neighborhood.
One podcast series changed my life forever- literally. It was a podcast series of 4 episodes discussing the importance of airway health and the role that Myofunctional Therapy plays.
I had been unknowingly suffering from a lifetime of Airway Health and Myofunctional Issues!
I listened to the same episode several times. I realized that not only were my children showing signs of airway health issues and Myofunctional Disorders, but that I, myself, had been suffering from a lifetime of compensating for these same issues.
I then reflected on my extended family, friends, and dental hygiene patients that had been showing the red flags that I had previously missed. I went down "the rabbit hole" of airway health and myofunctional therapy, which has forever changed the way that I view dentistry and healthcare. It also changed the trajectory of my life and career.
I eventually signed up for my first Myofunctional Therapy program,
MyoMentor, taught by Sarah Hornsby. Throughout the program, I began by treating my own Myofunctional Issues. I had been a mouth breather throughout my life related to seasonal allergies that began in childhood. I also discovered that I was tongue tied. This restricted movement of my tongue meant that my tongue rested on the floor of my mouth and would fall back into my throat during sleep. When my tongue fell back into my throat, it narrowed the space that I had to breathe through. My body would subconsciously react to the resistance of airflow, resulting in teeth clenching, grinding, frequent waking and overall crappy sleep quality. I never felt well rested and thought about napping often! Little did I know, I was showing classic signs of Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome- a form of Sleep Disordered Breathing.
I was chronically in pain with discomfort in my jaw and often suffered from headaches. I believe that these were triggered not only from clenching and grinding my teeth, but also from overworking the muscles of my face and jaw while speaking, chewing and swallowing.
I started by treating my own Myofunctional Issues
I did a full Myofunctional Therapy program for myself and underwent a laser tongue tie release to allow my tongue more range of motion.
Through Myofunctional Therapy and the tongue tie release, I noticed my jaw and headaches improved drastically! I stopped clenching and grinding my teeth completely and stopped waking up with jaw tension. I also noticed that my sleep quality improved and I no longer felt like I needed a nap every afternoon.
But my own journey isn't over yet...
The next step in my airway health journey will be epigenetic orthodontic expansion, to give me more tongue and airway space, structurally. I learned that although I went through orthodontic treatment as a teenager, my jaws did not grow or expand to their full genetic potential. Because of my low resting tongue posture and mouth breathing as a child, my jaw did not grow wide or forward. Instead, it developed narrow and small, my lower jaw set back slightly, and crowding the space for my tongue. Myofunctional Therapy and the tongue tie release helped me to function better. For optimal health going forward, I know that I need to address the structural issues and gain more space in my mouth. I want the best for my health which means optimal breathing and sleep!
"When you know better, you do better" - Maya Angelou
I am grateful for learning this information while my children are so young. I am able to intervene early and help to guide their jaw and airway development. Hopefully, this way I can prevent them from going through what I did for so long.
For me, as an adult, the process is a little more complicated. What I have realized is that, although more complicated as an adult, treating my airway health now will benefit my long term health going forward. I want to live a long life, but I also want my health span to match my life span. I know that if I am not breathing and sleeping optimally, no system in my body will be unaffected. Proper breathing and restorative sleep is vital to our overall wellness.
While continuing to strive for optimal health for myself and my family, I also offer consulting and Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy to patients across North America through my online practice, Archway Orofacial Myology. Contact me for more information or schedule a consultation on my booking link