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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Alfi

Why Misaligned Teeth Can Lead to Poor Breathing and Orthodontics Alone May Not Be Enough

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

The human mouth is a complex system of structures that work together to perform various functions such as breathing, speaking, and chewing. The tongue is an integral part of this system and plays a significant role in maintaining proper dental alignment and airway patency. The lack of proper tongue space can result in teeth shifting, and orthodontic treatments aimed at correcting dental malocclusion without considering the underlying cause can lead to airway obstruction. This post will explore the relationship between tongue space deficiency, dental alignment, and airway obstruction, and the impact of orthodontic treatments on these variables.


The tongue requires adequate space within the oral cavity to function properly. When there is a deficiency in tongue space, the tongue may be forced to rest against the anterior teeth, leading to dental malocclusion. This can result in the anterior teeth being pushed forward and the posterior teeth being pushed backward, leading to an increase in overbite and overjet. The crowding of the anterior teeth can also cause a shift in the bite and lead to changes in the occlusal plane, including anterior open bite.


Let's see why orthodontics alone can lead to airway issues and why custom jaw surgery might the true remedy.



Orthodontic treatments that do not address the underlying cause of dental malocclusion, such as tongue space deficiency, can result in airway obstruction. This can occur when the orthodontic appliance used to correct the dental malocclusion narrows the airway by pushing the tongue against the posterior pharyngeal wall. This results in decreased airway volume and can lead to symptoms such as snoring, sleep apnea, and difficulty breathing.


At AOS we understand that tongue space deficiency plays a significant role in the development of dental malocclusion and airway obstruction. Orthodontic treatments aimed at correcting dental malocclusion without addressing the underlying cause can exacerbate airway obstruction and lead to adverse effects on overall health. The good news is that orthodontists consider the interplay between tongue space, dental alignment, and airway patency when planning and implementing orthodontic treatments, and will often refer patients to an oral surgeon.


More and more, orthodontists and oral surgeons are discovering the important benefits of having ample tongue space and having a healthy airway. Proper tongue space is crucial for maintaining proper dental alignment and airway patency. Orthodontic treatments that do not consider tongue space deficiency can result in airway obstruction and adverse effects on overall health. Orthodontists should be aware of the interplay between tongue space, dental alignment, and airway patency and take this into account when planning and implementing orthodontic treatments.

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