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Why is a speech therapist concerned with your or your child's airway?
A restricted airway is serious and can impact you or your child’s orofacial growth, development, breathing, attention, learning, sleep, and health (diseases related to or caused by airway disorders). Each individual is different and the consequences of a restricted airway manifest in a variety of manners, but there will always be an impact when the airway is restricted.
What are the implications, associations and consequences of airway disorders?
Dental Health: Dental malocclusion, periodontal disorders, Orthodontic Relapse, open bites, midline diastema (referring to the space between the two front teeth), grinding, clenching, receding chin, retruded upper and lower jaws, gummy smile, lower teeth smile, tooth pain, jaw tightness, restricted opening of mouth, worn dentition, scalloped tongue, lingual restriction, pain on face upon touch, increased sensitivity, and jaw shifting during chewing and speaking.
Anatomical & Physiological Changes: Long, narrow face, weak lip seal, open mouth posture, high, narrow palate, ear infections, clogged ears, facial asymmetry, hypertension, distended stomach, deoxygenation, poor circulation, collapsed palate, higher eye, slanted jaw, chronic neck pain, head and neck posture changes, winged shoulder blades, venous pooling under eyes, shiners or eye shadows, enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids, acute upper respiratory infections, insufficient orofacial muscle tone, excessive length of soft palate, beaked nose, restriction of nasal air flow, asthma, allergies, systemic inflammation, chronic sickness, throat infections, winged shoulder blades, and weight gain.
Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders: Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD), atypical postures of the mouth and tongue, atypical breathing, decreased stability and coordination of the muscles of the face, head and neck impacting speech, chewing, swallowing, and breathing.
Speech Disorders: Articulation Disorders, vocal quality, tongue thrusting, lisping, drooling, poor dissociation of the tongue, jaw and lips, and many other sound distortions and errors.
Feeding Disorders: Poor breath support, poor coordination of oral and/or pharyngeal stages of the swallow, Dysphagia, decreased chewing skills, hypersensitive gag, choking on foods, texture sensitivities, inability to transition to solids, tongue, lip and cheek biting due to decreased room in the mouth for tongue when chewing and swallowing, digestive disorders from unchewed foods and swallowing air, and reflux.
Sleep Disorders: Sleep Disorders include, Snoring, Upper Airway Obstructions, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Central Sleep Apnea, and associated Silent Airway Disorders. Symptoms of OSA are bed wetting, night terrors, snoring, periodical limb movements, circadian rhythm abnormalities, restless leg syndrome, limb pain, frequent awakening, significant neuro-cognitive deficits, including ADD and ADHD. These symptoms are present in both adults and children. Apnea is just ONE symptom of Sleep Disordered Breathing. Silent airway disorders are just as critical and debilitating as sleep disorders that are seen or heard. Children need SOUND SLEEP through the night!
Cognition & Learning: ADD, ADHD, impulsivity, executive functioning disorders, neuro-cognitive disorders, reading disorders including difficulty with reading comprehension, math concepts, social studies, difficulty with memory and attention, decreased safety awareness and problem solving, behavioral disorders, and Alzheimer’s.
Nutritional Concerns: Craving sugar and carbohydrates, weight gain, and obesity
What size airway is ok with you?
A Narrowed Airway can be the size of a cocktail straw.
A Restriction Free Airway can be the size of a garden hose.
If there is an airway restriction, specifically with the nasal cavity or due to enlarged tonsil and adenoids, ask your treating professional what the plan of care is to improve the airway concerns? It is your job to be an advocate for yourself or your child. Review the associated risks associated with a restricted airway. Understand the consequences and risks of NOT taking out enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Understand that 1mm of airway restriction increases the effort of breathing 16 times.