By Doris M. Waite, RDH, COMT

Not the Covid-19 virus and all its variants but something we’ve been unknowingly doing to our children. First, there are over 1 BILLION people in the world with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). How did that happen?  Well, it’s a sad story..... but let’s start at the beginning.

At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, many people moved to cities to be closer to jobs.  They weren’t growing their own food anymore and eating it but began to eat foods that were packaged and eventually processed for “easy” consumption.  This change occurred over 150 to 200 years and in that time, we developed some really bad habits!
By the middle of the Twentieth Century, there was so much packaging and processing going on that it was chic to buy your food in the grocery store rather than making it at home (typical for mid 50’s: aww, can’t we have store bought cookies??).

People looking to make money during the baby boom, developed formula and Pablum for easy consumption and advertised it as being “the best” for baby.  They even gave doctors and hospitals free samples of formula for distribution to new mothers “just in case”.  Just in case.....mom couldn’t breastfeed.  So if moms had trouble breastfeeding, they could just switch to a bottle - no problem.

But there was a problem that most people don’t know about.  Babies who are bottle fed often become mouth breathers because their tongue is being pushed down to eat and feels “comfortable” on the floor of the mouth.  Mouth breathing leads to nasal congestion which leads to more mouth breathing and the cycle continues.  In addition, mushed up baby food was (and still is!) being marketed as “best for baby”, even selling “Junior” foods that were not quite as liquefied.  Babies were not developing chewing muscles and their tongues were not being challenged to function AT ALL!

So what does this have to do with OSA?  It just so happens that development of the muscles in the mouth, cheeks, lips and throat are strengthened by breastfeeding and chewing on solid, challenging foods.  When the tongue and the muscles at the back of the throat are toned, the tongue stays in the mouth where it belongs and doesn’t fall into the back of the throat to block the airway.  A blocked airway is what causes OSA.

On a trip to Tanzania a few years ago, I noticed that EVERYONE had beautiful, wide arches and straight teeth.  The reason: moms breast fed their babies and weaned to table foods - no bottles, no formula, no baby food.  (there isn’t one orthodontist there either!)

The question now is: how do we prevent our children and grandchildren from suffering from OSA?  Well, you could move to Africa or breastfeed and wean to open cup, have children choose their own food (Baby Led Weaning) and full time nose breathing.

Babies who are unable to nose breathe need to have their noses rinsed out daily until they CAN nose breathe.  If it is a physical obstruction, fix it and get that little one nose breathing.  Snoring babies are NOT cute.  By age 5, 70% of a child’s face has grown so early intervention is imperative.

If you know of a little one who could benefit from early intervention, find an Orthotropic dentist who can assist with facial growth and development early.  The child will not “grow out of it” but will become a problem adult.

Doris Waite is a Registered Dental Hygienist, Certified Orofacial Myofunctional Therapist and Buteyko Breathing Educator.

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