My kids were ignored, heed my warning: Don’t let doctors ignore yours

It took 10 years and a pediatric dentist for me to realize that I was a terrible mother. I fell into the trap of taking the pediatrician at her word. She said they would grow out of these problems, she advised medication for years before I regretfully succumbed, and she said it was all normal.

I’ll admit I started out motherhood at a deficit. I was just shy of 19 years old when I had him and 21 when I had her.

I tried desperately to breastfeed him as an infant, but his birth was fast and my recovery complicated, so we settled for bottle feeding. He was the perfect baby for the first 6 months. Most of the day was eating and sleeping with occasional quiet playtime. The moment we crossed over 6 months was a turn for his health. We battled stomach viruses that seemed to come one after the other, and sleeping became an issue so we co-slept. Which meant he slept while I dealt with blows from kicking and rolling all night.

He turned 2 and one month later he was a big brother. I resented her for coming into our lives and disrupting the time and attention I had for him. Looking back, I know I had postpartum because resent was a mild way of putting it.

With her, I didn’t want to go through the health struggles he has, so we were successful at breastfeeding. Almost without much effort from me. The only vice she had was thumb sucking. Though, admittedly, I was initially thankful for that, as he dropped his pacifier often and I knew I wouldn’t have to deal with her dropping her thumb on the floor of a retail store and wanting to place it back in.

By the time she hit 6 months, she was a loved and well-accepted member of our trio. However, we ceased being a trio by the time she was 3. I met my husband and we made 3 a full family of five.

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Insert chaos. He became a kindergartner, she stopped being potty trained and the baby girl S was an around the clock breast-feeder. The baby seemed to never be satiated, was particularly fussy, and had very poor sleep habits.

From kindergarten, teachers told me that they suspected he had issues. He was particularly “energetic” and difficult to “focus.” The pediatrician thought the teachers were too eager to label him with ADHD. At those appointments, I also mentioned that she, at age 3 then, would not sleep through the night, routinely wet the bed, and has numerous accidents during the day. The pediatrician wrote that off too as regression due to baby S.

Acceptable. I could and would wait it out. Only many of those problems never went away. Breastfeeding never got better and ended before I was ready due to a lack of supply. Sleep and fussiness was a consistent problem. He continued to struggle with attention as he moved up in grades.

By the time he was in 5th grade, we expanded from a group of 5 to 6 and we finally succumbed to the inevitable neurology evaluation.kids

All the while, his stomach issues persisted, she continued to amplify her sleep issues with daily bed-wetting, night terrors, and sleepwalking. Baby S, surprisingly thrived as a big sister with no signs of regression but suffered from repeated ear and throat infections. Baby L, struggled with breastfeeding and after two bouts of mastitis, we called it quits. My home was full of love but swimming in health issues. All of which were deemed “normal” and to be outgrown.

His ADHD was officially diagnosed, and after two years of resisting medication, we gave in. The girls maintained sleep issues and cycles of antibiotics for routine infections. I was the mom that would respond with a generic, “good,” when asked how the kids were.

But they weren’t good, I knew it. Motherhood is many things, but devoid of intuition it is not. I wanted help and often Googled in search of it, but nothing helped. How could I stop medicating my kids, buying night diapers for her at 10 years old, and suffering in silence?

The dentist. All I needed was a great dentist. I began working for one and in the interview, she went over airway dentistry in great length and insisted that if I wanted the job I needed to be knowledgeable and an advocate of it. I understood mildly at that moment what it meant, but it wasn’t until my kids were in the chair not long after that I fully comprehended Airway Centered Disorder (ACD).

Every single one of them had issues all directly related to their breathing. His ADHD and digestion problems, her sleep issues and persistent thumb sucking, and S & L’s ear and throat infections and nursing problems. It was always present in their facial features, oral development, and sleep habits. Just never diagnosed.

The restless sleep with tossing and turning at night. The open mouths with a tongue that would rest in between the lips. The dark circles under the eyes and chubby cheeks. The crowded teeth and thumbsucking. The hyperactivity and inability to focus. All of it tells a story of a child with an ACD.

All of it missed by the pediatrician who routinely saw my family for various issues. Yet, all I ever received, in hindsight, was palliative care that kept symptoms down for a little while or no care because they would outgrow the sleep problems.

If the medical field was aware of what so many in the dental field are coming to understand, my children would not have been ignored. S & L would have received tongue tie releases during infancy. He and she would have had a sleep study as toddlers and received treatment for their apnea.

I dove deep into myofunctional therapy, dental appliances, alternative therapies, the impact of diet, and ACD. Parent to parent, after over $10K in continuing education, I know now where I went wrong and I do NOT want you to repeat my mistakes.

4 Steps to Getting Help for Airway Centered Disorder

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1. Monitor everything

How often is your child sick with a routine cold, allergies, or even asthma? How do they sleep at night? Do they mouth breathe? Do you see their tongue frequently when they talk? Are they very picky eaters, have a strong gag reflex, chew loud or messy, eat very fast, or very slow? Do they maintain dark circles under their eyes or baby like chubby cheeks?

To a certain extent, some of these things are okay when seen infrequently. Having an ear or throat infection once or twice a year with the change of seasons is not something to worry over. But having chronic infections is a concern. Note exactly what you experience with your child because it will be important when you are in front of a medical or dental professional.

2. Insist on screenings

While not right, you may experience push-back from your pediatrician or possibly dentist. Not everyone is trained in ACD and it’s impact on the growing child. Inform your pediatrician that you would like a referral to a sleep physician. Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor (ENT) referrals are usually best after a sleep study because it calls the notoriously underpaid ENT to action. Sleep apnea can be fatal in adults and is detrimental to child development, growth, and health. Your child with swollen tonsils or adenoids that prevent nasal breathing can be easily dismissed by an ENT. You should be armed with a sleep study or at least the knowledge that your child does not need further intervention in the medical field.

A diagnosis of no sleep apnea is great, but if you see other signs that your child has an ACD consult with a myofunctional therapist. We treat mouth breathing by establishing proper oral resting habits through exercises and activities.

3. Do your research

Knowledge is power. You cannot change the past and all the things you did not know, but you can impact the future. Establish a strong foundation of research on the impact of ACD on health and development.

Foundation for Airway Health, American Academy of Physiological Medicine and Dentistry, and this Airway Matters blog are all excellent resources to start your journey.

I did a Breathe for Health webinar that breaks down myofunctional therapy and how it can positively impact the effects of ACD. In 45 minutes you come to understand the signs and symptoms and the 3 step process of treatment.

4. Establish your team

Treating an ACD is hardly ever just a one-stop solution. A team can consist of a dentist and a bodyworker. A dentist and an ENT. A sleep physician and myofunctional therapist. A lactation consultant and an ENT. A speech therapist and dentist. There are a number of options and sometimes more than two providers are essential for successful treatment. Know how to proceed once you determine that there is a problem.

Stand your ground

As a parent, there are many different things people will tell you about your child. Your instincts trump it all. You know when something is not right, or feels off. Don’t be passive with their health and accept palliative care, like I did. Take a stand for them and positively impact their health for their lifetime.

Resources

Find journal articles, professional research, peer-reviewed studies and clinical evidence all compiled in one source that support the existence and clinical treatment of ACD here.

If you are a mother of small children or babies, you can intervene early to minimize or eliminate treatment in the future. Read our e-guide Avoid Braces Naturally.

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Do You Need Myofunctional Therapy: The Definitive Assessments

The frequent congestion, ear/throat infections, poor sleep, tongue thrust and mouth-breathing has become intolerable. Your dental or medical professional has informed you about myofunctional therapy as a treatment to provide you with some relief…now what?

I’ve been there. You just heard about this random therapy that seems to have come out of nowhere, your head is spinning and you want a second opinion. Absolutely something to Google away your concerns…OR…you could use this definitive assessment to verify need and validate your concerns.

Three simple key points can definitively pinpoint if you need myofunctional therapy:

  1. 3 A’s of Airway Obstruction
  2. The 1 Minute Breath Test
  3. Airway Assessment

The completion of all 3 will give you the best answer, but for those short on time, a quick result from one points you in the right direction.

The 3 A’s of Airway Obstruction

An obstructed or narrow airway has many consequences. Breathing is essential and any obstacle along the track is detrimental to our mental and physical health. Most frequently people suffering from a narrow airway will experience one of three symptoms.

  1. Asthma
  2. Anxiety
  3. Allergies

Asthma and asthma-like symptoms are directly attached to the airway. Modern medicine would typically treat the wheezing and attacks with medication or palliative treatment. However, many people have treated their asthma with a combination of myofunctional therapy and dental appliances. Widening of the dental arches in conjunction with nasal breathing has brought relief to many suffering with asthma-like symptoms.

Anxiety has long been linked to breathing and meditation. An oxygenated body is a calm body. Mouth-breathing impairs the quality of the oxygen your body receives and often establishes an environment that narrows the airway. Nasal breathing allows air to be filtered and humidified prior to reaching the lungs. Many anxiety suffers have benefited from reduced or sometimes eliminated attacks through learning proper breathing.

Allergies plague many of us and it seems that the number of allergens are rising rapidly. Congestion, sinus inflammation and post nasal drip that occurs from seasonal and environmental allergies are sometimes incorrectly associated with allergies. Those often are a result of a narrowed airway. Especially in the cases where the sufferer experiences year-long “allergies.”

If you experience any of the 3 A’s of airway obstruction, you may be a great candidate for myofunctional therapy.

The 1-Minute Breath Test

Probably the easiest way to determine myofunctional therapy necessity is to take our 1-minute breath test.

Sit upright in a chair with your feet flat against the floor and take in a deep breath. Notice your mouth during the breath and repeat if necessary. Were your lips sealed? Where was your tongue positioned? Did you feel the breath in your chest?

Repeat the breath, but this time place your tongue up against the roof of the mouth, then inhale and exhale exclusively through the nose. Compare the two breaths.

If your first breath felt more labored than the second, then You’re Breathing Wrong. (<- Couldn’t resist that shameless plug)

In your first breath you may have used your mouth, had your tongue pressed against your teeth, possibly on the floor of the mouth, or breathed with your chest. Any one of those during frequent breathing is incorrect. Myofunctional therapy would be of the most benefit to you.

Our Airway Assessment

Sometimes nothing is better than seeing it all on paper. Our airway assessment has a myriad of common symptoms associated with a dysfunctional airway. It’s simple and free. Download and print your copy to see how many symptoms you experience that you may not have even known were linked.

I recommend myofunctional therapy for anyone who scores a 9 or greater.

Now what?

If you did all three and need more information before proceeding with myofunctional therapy check out our resourceful blog full of all the next steps to take once an airway problem is identified.

For those brave few who are ready to take the next step, visit The Myo Spot online to choose one of the various ways to get myofunctional therapy treatment as soon as today!

Is Airway Health A Privilege?

I distinctly remember the first time my dental provider pointed out to me that my child had a tongue tie. It was unexpected, overwhelming and immediately followed up with fast explanations of why it mattered. The possible implications and mental standouts of symptoms she currently had made me want to take immediate action.

Yet, the treatment plan and suggested providers to contact was not in agreement with my bank account, budget or financial planning. How on Earth did “regular” people like myself afford thousands of dollars on appliances, therapies, bodywork, tests, and studies? Surely insurance was not footing the bill for most of these services, and monthly payments can easily dominate any family budget.

It occurred to me rapidly that it was not feasible for me to treat one child, much less all four, for this problem. In fact, I would need to take on another job in order to pay for the treatments.  Should you have the blessing of a financially stable home with access to significant disposable income then airway health can be yours. Airway health is not new to this concept, it is true that with most healthcare you can get exceptional results and care when you can afford it.

But does it have to be that way with airway health? Is it really a privilege? The short answer is an obvious yes. So how does the average, unconnected and unsuspecting person afford the entirety of the treatment plan and team? As a member of the interdisciplinary team that works to establish new neuromuscular patterning for proper oral resting posture, I have to seriously consider this in my practice. Especially if I am going to honestly acknowledge that if I was not apart of this team I personally would not be able to afford it.

A majority of people snore, need or have had braces and/or mouth-breathe. When a large percentage of the general population suffers from the same dysfunction, and I feel passionate about that dysfunction, then naturally I have to address it.

Let’s get basic! There are self-help manuals, books, and websites that aim to guide you in treating yourself as an alternative to working with a healthcare professional. While not ideal, and absolutely not guaranteed to get you results, it is a start.

Here are some resources to assist you on your self-help journey: (*Please note that none of the below options are a replacement for working with a medical/dental professional one-on-one. Simply helpful suggestions that may hold you over while you await your ability to professionally treat.)

  • I am a huge advocate for research. Here you can find my Pinterest list of books to read that offer you a significant amount of easy to digest information about airway dysfunction, implications, treatments and dietary suggestions.
  • Our e-book Myofunctional Made Better is available for download on Amazon, with a full 21-day program of dynamic myofunctional therapy.
  • You’re Breathing Wrong, the complete myofunctional therapy journal will guide you through a 10-week complete myofunctional therapy program. Also available on Amazon.
  • Alternatively, some patients have received relief from the Buteyko method of breathing.
  • I offer a course with a pre-frenectomy and post-frenectomy program that is entirely online and self-taught. This enables those who are incapable of affording one-on-one work with me or another myofunctional therapist, to prepare for and receive a frenectomy.
  • Gluten, dairy, sugar, soy and processed foods are known foods that cause inflammation in the body. If you exclude these products from your diet you may see positive changes.
  • Perform daily nasal hygiene to help decrease congestion and free the nasal passages to allow for better nasal breathing. Find my recommended routine here.
  • Inform your provider that you can not afford the entire treatment plan. Understand that interdisciplinary care is best and several providers go hand in hand to get the best results. However, ask for your provider’s recommendation as to what service to prioritize so you can budget while starting treatment.
  • Start early! Many of the manifestations of airway dysfunction can be intercepted early. If you are pregnant, planning to conceive or have a newborn, make plans to see an IBCLC and/or bodyworker as early as possible. For an excellent list of progressive providers across the nation visit Ankyloglossia Bodyworkers.

Regardless of what path you take in addressing your airway health, it is important that you address it. Do so reasonably and responsibly, because while airway health can be a privilege it does not have to be.

Daily Nasal Hygiene: Tips to Keep Air Flowing For Less Nose Blowing

The nasal passage needs daily care just as the rest of your body does, yet it is often neglected. Here are 4 steps to take to ensure you show some love to the primary respiratory feature of the head.

  1. Clear the path

    Make sure you blow the nose and empty the sinus as much as possible prior to taking the next steps. In order to get the full benefit of the following steps a clear pathway must be established

  2. Clean the path

    Use a saline rinse to cleanse the nasal pathway. I personally recommend a saline rinse that has xylitol in it. Not only does the xylitol add a positive flavor to the rinse, but it also helps to reduce inflammation. Insert the nasal spray tip at the base of the nostril and spray twice on inhalation to ensure the saline goes through the airway and down the throat.

  3. Invigorate the path

    The NetiStik is a great tool to help relieve congestion. The aroma opens the nostrils and provides an optimal path for oxygen. Place the Netistik at the base of one nostril while using a thumb to gently cover the opening of the opposing nostril. Inhale and exhale deeply three times and repeat on opposing nostril.

  4. Open the path

    This nasal hygiene protocol can be performed at any time of day. However, it is best performed at night. For those who are unable to perform at night, simply save step 4 for bed. Use a nasal strip on the outside of nasal bridge and secure for the evening. The strip will aid in opening the nasal airway path as you sleep. This step offers a more restful night and several hours of nasal breathing.

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All three products can be found on Amazon or check your local retailer for availability. So get your nose flowing with air and stop the congestion that has you constantly blowing. You are four simple steps away from a more restful night of sleep and less nasal congestion.

An airway issue has been identified…now what?

So you had what you thought was going to be a routine dental or medical evaluation and your provider has just informed you that you and/or your child has a breathing or airway issue. You are understandably confused and possibly have been given too much information about a problem you never knew existed.

You have landed in the right place! I will break down the logistics of some information you have been given, possibly give you more you didn’t think of and present you with a to-do list so you know how to proceed.

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All was well and right with the world until that visit. You knew your body and/or your child and there were no words other than healthy to describe you. Yet, a few questions and one exam later knocked down all the blocks in the tower you were building.

Here’s what you should know:

  • Mouthbreathing is ineffective and inhibits your body from functioning optimally. The visible signs that your doctor may have noticed are in the graphic below. These are the tip of the iceberg in diagnostic signs of an orofacial myofunctional disorder (OMD).

    An OMD is an inability to utilize proper oral or facial muscle function. Characterized by over or underutilization of muscles when breathing, masticating (chewing) and/or swallowing.

    myofunctional therapy Cork

  • There is no official way to predict the future health implications of OMDs. Airway issues and dysfunctions have been tied to sleep apnea, asthma, eczema, TMJ disorders, ADHD/ADD, daytime sleepiness, tongue thrust, speech issues, enlarged tonsils/adenoids, snoring, grinding, messy/loud eating, picky eating, slow labored eating, poor dental arch formation, malaligned teeth, poor facial development, anxiety, poor emotional regulation, frequent congestion, and proneness to allergies.
  • Not all tongue ties need to be released. There is a functional and non-functional tongue. The decision for a release should always include a myofunctional therapist, even if just for a consultation. Craniosacral therapists and Osteopathic physicians are also great to consult for eligibility to release. Read more about them below in part 2.
  • We spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping and there is no more critical bodily process than breathing, yet medical and dental schools spend less than 10 hours studying both. With the exception of specialists, medical school graduates are mostly unaware of sleep disordered breathing and orofacial myofunctional disorders. In fact, in most cases where a knowledgeable dental provider indicates an OMD and the patient/parent goes back to their primary care physician, the physician will disregard or dismiss the issue.
  • While there are many possible causative factors for OMDs, the only preventative measures that can be considered are to have newborns evaluated for lip and tongue tie, breastfeed for 1-2 years without regular bottle supplementation, do not introduce a pacifier or take away a pacifier at or before 6 months of age, do not introduce sippy cups, go from breast to regular cup or cup with straw, allow babies to have tummy time, limit baby sleeping in unnatural positioners (walker, rocker, swing, bouncer, carrier), and discourage thumb, finger, tongue or object sucking. The aforementioned measures can help reduce the risk of a child developing an OMD but is not guaranteed. Some hereditary, genetic and otherwise elusive factors are involved.
  • You are not alone. Due to our diets, fast-paced society, and perceived norms many people have OMDs that are undiagnosed. Hard crunchy foods are not the integral part of the diet as it used to be. Caffeine is the stimulant used to power the body and keep it alert and awake, as opposed to adequate oxygenation and sleep. Snoring, painful breastfeeding and needing braces are all considered normal in society, as opposed to signs of airway problems. If you took a walk down a city street and watched carefully, it is a good prediction to say that 70% of the people you pass will have an open mouth and one or more other signs from the graphic above.
  • There are solutions, but you have to be prepared and fully aware of the time and financial commitment that it will require. If you take your steps wisely, you may be able to get some financial help from both medical and dental insurance to help reduce costs in some areas.

Which leads us to

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What on earth do you do with all this new information? How do you apply it and where do you go from here?

The detailed plan

  1. Assemble your team
    1. Dentist- A progressive dentist that specializes in sleep and/or airway dentistry. This dentist does all types of “typical” dental services such as examinations, fillings and preventative care. However, they also evaluate for tongue ties, airway obstruction, screen for sleep issues and utilize orthopedic or orthodontic appliances to expand the airway. They can offer you dental solutions for sleep problems.
    2. Sleep Physician- A sleep specialist can consult with you and determine your need for a sleep study. A sleep study is used to monitor your brain and vital activity while sleeping. The physician will read the results of the study and determine if there were episodes of obstructive breathing or poor sleep quality. In some cases, a sleep study that results in a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea can warrant your medical insurance to reimburse or pay for dental appliances to expand the airway. A specially trained dentist (general or pediatric) or an oral maxillofacial surgeon can perform releases of tongue or lip ties.
    3. Bodyworker- This team member can feel and manipulate tensions, pains, and dysfunctions in the body. An osteopath is a medical doctor that specialized in osteopathic medicine. These doctors are often recommended by dentists who utilize the orthodontic appliances. Alternatively, a craniosacral therapist works with the cranium, spine and pelvic area. They are certified professionals who have at least 2-3 years of training and clinical experience.  Sometimes trained in orthodontic appliances, bodyworkers understand how to symmetrically balance the growth of the palate with the entire cranium. With tongue ties and other body restrictions or tensions, they may be able to perform treatments to alleviate the tension or manipulate the restriction. In most cases, neither of these professionals are covered by insurances but may qualify for out-of-network reimbursement.
    4. Myofunctional therapist- A myofunctional therapist or orofacial myologist is a speech-language pathologist, dental hygienist or dentist that has pursued additional education and training for the treatment of OMDs. This professional can work with patients to help them establish proper oral resting posture. They are also able to help eliminate noxious oral habits, such as thumb sucking, nail biting or prolonged pacifier use. These professionals are able to assess the functionality of a tongue frenum to determine if the tongue is functionally or non-functionally tied.
    5. ENT- An ear, nose, and throat doctor can evaluate the airway for obstructions. They will determine if the obstruction is capable of rehabilitation without surgical intervention.
  2. Make modifications accordingly
    1. Change the diet. Along this journey, various members of your team will inform you that gluten, dairy, processed foods, and sugar all increase body inflammation. If you have an airway obstruction, the first and easiest change to make is in the diet.
    2. Perform nasal hygiene. Just as you would brush your teeth daily, cleanse the nasal passages with a saline rinse daily.
    3. Try natural solutions. Nasal strips can help to open the nasal passages. Sleeping on your side can help you to breathe better. Eliminate sucking objects (bottles, sippy cups and pacifiers) for young children. Be aware of your mouth posture and close the lips comfortably together to consciously nasal breathe.
  3. Research, Research, RESEARCH
    1. Don’t take everything you hear from your professionals and hold onto it. Process the information internally, and add the wealth of information available online from various professionals. Remember, you are not alone. There are blogs from professionals (like this one), blogs from individuals who chronical their journeys, peer-reviewed journal articles and research available for you to review online.

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Once you know more, you are able to not just do better, but also BE better. It is a long and hard journey, but there is significant light at the end of the tunnel. You are strong enough to complete this journey.

Continue to follow this blog for more helpful posts that may guide you along the way.