Patients see their dentist twice a year. Even during COVID, we still had patients eager to come here. So, it’s your job to do as much for them as you can in those two windows. I am talking about taking care of more than their teeth. This is about the whole patient.
Identifying potential problems in your patients can be as simple as recognizing high blood pressure by taking a reading when they come in. For example, we had one patient who had calcification in their carotid artery, which is the main blood vessel that leads to the brain. If there’s a calcification there, you have an increased risk for stroke. And we spotted it early with a 3D CBCT image taken in office.
We have an opportunity as dentists to be gatekeepers. To look at what’s going on in the mouth and try to figure out how that could potentially relate to the rest of the body. We can help empower our patients to make good decisions about their health. We should be their advocates in that regard.
When it comes to talking to my patients about sleep and breathing properly, I like to point out that our instinct to survive, and to breathe, quite honestly is the strongest instinct we have. Our body’s ability to compensate and adapt is greater than anything. And we see those adaptations in a lot of different ways. For example, if a patient breathes with their mouth, they’re not using their nose to filter and purify that air. The nose is built for that – it filters and purifies. Fun fact, if you breathe through your mouth, that function falls to the tonsils and adenoids. Then, the tonsils and adenoids get large which leads to chronic infections.
Here’s an example of addressing the root cause of mouth breathing. I have a patient who has had her tonsils and adenoids removed six times. Her doctor never addressed her mouth breathing. Guess what? We did. Now she doesn’t have to have that surgery again. We were able to get her on a flexTAP appliance and now she is breathing through her nose properly.
So there are lots of ways for us to talk to our patients about proper oxygenation in the body. Maybe the tongue is falling back? Maybe the lower jaw is underdeveloped? Maybe there was orthodontics that retracted everything, pushing the tongue backward rather than pulling things forward? We look at the ways that they compensate. We see teeth grinding, bringing the jaw forward to bring the tongue out of the airway.
We see all sorts of different compensations for mouth breathing. Bedwetting, chronic digestive issues, endocrine issues, adrenal fatigue, the list goes on and on. We see it in children. And as adults become older and the body’s ability to compensate improves, it can manifest as teeth grinding. It gets masked a little bit and quite honestly, the masking or the compensations that they do are very easily excused.
“Well, of course, I grind my teeth, I’m stressed out. When I’m stressed out, I don’t grind my teeth, right?” There are so many ways that people rationalize that.
We really want to jump into solutions. And we’re not looking to reinvent the wheel. We have different options that we present to patients. One is nothing.
I tell patients, “Hey, you don’t have to do anything. You’re thriving. Everything is good. But if you choose, here are some ways to go. You can get a CPAP.” And we work with our medical doctors to look at that. The problem is that the CPAP failure rate is so high.
Which leads us to oral appliance therapy.
And in that regard, the flexTAP provides a superior option. It can be so transformative to a patient. You wouldn’t believe how many times it has been literally life changing.
One of the key factors that makes flexTAP so effective is the addition of the Mouth Shield. Like I said previously, if a patient breathes with their mouth, they’re not using their nose to filter and purify that air. Every flexTAP comes with a silicone Mouth Shield that slips over the flexTAP post and sits inside the lips, forcing the patient to breathe through their nose. Now the patient is filtering and purifying the air that goes into their body. Genuis! By advancing the lower jaw, getting the tongue out of the airway, and promoting nasal breathing, flexTAP is truly a game changer for my patients and can be for yours, too
The other day, a 47-year-old man came in. I told him, “Hey, I’ve seen your wife. I’ve seen your children. And they would describe their dad as cranky.”
He’s stressed out. Yeah, everyone’s work is hard, right? Everybody can be grumpy.
When I met him, I said, “Hey, listen, you have a beautiful family and a beautiful wife who really love you and support you. And you’re exhausted. You’re breathing through an airway the size of a coffee straw. Do you realize everybody else breathes through something more like a garden hose? Do you realize how hard you’re working?”
I told him that flexTAP could help change this.
He burst into tears. Said he had no idea. He said, “This is why I was in the blue reading group instead of the red reading group.”
Huh, I thought.
He told me the red reading group was for the gifted kids; they could sit down and read chapter books. He was in the blue group, which had to read with a teacher because he was fidgety. He moved all around because he never got the right sleep, even in grade school.
What does a school-aged child do when they’re exhausted? They’re fidgety; they move all around. Would you believe this guy loved to read but was stuck in the blue reading group – and he still remembers that? Tell me if that’s not a little bit of emotional trauma.
Things like this are what people hold on to, and they just accept them as their reality. And it doesn’t have to be that way. It could be different, especially if we’re able to empower these patients to feel better. I was super excited for the guy to get his flexTAP.
That’s just one story. Next time, I’ll tell you another.
Learn More With Dr. Jill Ombrello
Her Book “Moms in the Trenches” will help you:
- Discover sustainable health pathways
- Understand your healthcare choices
- And champion your kids’ wellbeing.
“Moms in the Trenches” isn’t a quick read—it’s a call to action. As children face increasing health challenges, join Dr. Jill in the fight for change.
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Meet the Author
Jill Ombrello, DDS, AIAOMT, AIABDM
Dr. Jill Ombrello, DDS, specializes in pediatric sleep-disordered breathing, offering unique non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical therapies that resolve chronic symptoms like ADHD and allergies. A former Division I athlete, her drive stems from personal health challenges, propelling her to earn her DDS just 16 months after two heart surgeries. Her book, "Moms in the Trenches," delves deeper into holistic health, empowering readers to understand and advocate for sustainable wellness. Globally recognized, she educates doctors on her groundbreaking approach, leaving lasting impacts on young lives. Dr. Jill consistently delivers transformative results by combining expertise with empathy, honesty, and humor.