“When we breathe correctly, we have a sufficient amount of carbon dioxide, and our breathing is quiet, controlled, and rhythmic. If we are overbreathing, our breathing is heavy, more intense, and erratic, and we exhale too much carbon dioxide, leaving our body literally gasping for oxygen”. Patrick McKeown, The Oxygen Advantage.
I’ve been in dental health for over three decades, employed in most, if not all of its disciplines and incarnations, in a variety of settings for sure. The thought, arrogant upon reflection, that I was lacking an essential professional skill which needed addressing was an anathema to me to this point. The beginnings of this particular journey were a consequence, as is typical from me, not from established learning structure, our professional bodies interpretation of the needs of a practitioner, but from outside of the mainstream opinion. A particular event that drew my attention to the importance of breathing was when a colleague of mine helped a mutual friend struggling with trigeminal neuralgia. His supportive guidance and instruction brought a rapid change to their condition. Part of this dramatic process involved the position of the tongue to create a seal against the palate, to physically obstruct the mouths breathing passage aimed at enhancing and promoting nasal breathing, aligning the jaw correctly with practical exercises. Thus, lit the burgeoning flame of the importance of oro myofunctional therapy and Buteyko breathing as an addition to my established practice.
“The perfect breath in a minute is 5.5 seconds exhaling and 5.5 seconds inhaling. This entails breathing 5.5 litres of air a minute. This brings balance to releasing oxygen from haemoglobin, especially during exercise”. James Nestor
To date, my journey is ongoing, indeed, aren’t they all. Reading James Nestor’s book Breath and completing Kimberley Benkert’s oro myofunctional therapy course are just two steps on the ladder undertaken to date. James Nestor came on the radar from a colleague at work concerning her role as an oro myofunctional therapist at my current practice in Nelson, New Zealand. I had heard of LipZip, a book written and published by a colleague who helped our friend in France. Still, the connection and interest finally stirred when James was mentioned in podcasts, particularly Joe Rogan’s, who I occasionally viewed.
I suppose, being upfront, I have an ulterior motive for deep diving into breathing and OMT apart from the thought of “catching” up with non-mainstream thinking and practice. Having worked clinically for nigh on thirty-five years, the entrenched assumption of thinking nothing else needed knowing, I felt that something was missing. Coming into the autumn of my career, the vagaries of my practice upon my body are building. The competition within my clinical field for the right kind of employment remains strong. Professional friends have seen a niche in the dental marketplace to move on from traditional medicalised practice, moving into specialised OMT or academia. These personal friends are a constant source of inspiration and support, so this account, no doubt, is a big nod in their direction. Thank you both, Mr Tim Ives and Mrs Lorna Byrne.
In my humble opinion, both OMT and the varying breathing approaches should be part of established dental healthcare professional training. The positioning of the tongue, its tone and behaviour have a significant bearing, especially in infancy and childhood, in the positive development of the dental arches and breathing. In terms, this extends to better general and dental health outcomes. Kimberley’s OMT course, linked to the International Association of Orofacial Myology, focuses on improving tongue posture, tone and strength. It is inextricably linked to arch expansion and breathing. It can help with functional problems like temporomandibular disfunction, bruxing (tooth grinding) and sleep apnea, the cessation of breathing at night due to airway obstruction.
Having completed the course, I presented to my work colleagues about the online learning experience and how I felt about it. It definitely gave me a deeper insight into the function of the tongue and its importance in breathing, expansion and digestion. The multiplicity of exercises and benefits, their frequency and promotion to clients were taught, and online helped my visual learning style. How I adapt this into practice is yet to be determined; however, this new clinical year, I suspect, will reveal this to me with potential personnel changes within its course. OMT holds an excellent foundation for positive breathing improvement and promotion, whatever the future holds. Therefore, additional learning and new knowledge creation are required. Enter Mr James Nestor.
“Carbon dioxide is the chief hormone of the entire body, it’s the only one that is produced by every tissue, and that probably acts on every organ. Carbon dioxide is, in fact, a more fundamental component of living matter than oxygen”. Dr Yandell Henderson, Physiologist.
James writes in a delightful narrative style. His book took me many weeks to complete as I am not a good reader. I must confess, my attention deficiency is substantial. Despite this, I found this book very engaging and understanding how I read. His odyssey into his respiratory distress is courageous, experimental and successful. The people he meets on his journey as a strange assemblage of anthropologists, orthodontists, dentists and “pulmonauts”, free-thinking and open-minded individuals testing new science and techniques for respiratory and general health and well-being improvement. He clearly defines the nature of our faces, revealing many historical and evolutionary truths that are a revelation. “Our mouths have negatively changed from our hunter-gatherer ancestors”, starts Nestor, “Our faces are flatter, mouths shrunk, sinus’s plugged”. Morphological changes have occurred too, our larynx lowered, clogging our throats as our skulls expand to house a bigger brain, lengthening our faces simultaneously.
“Our facial bones don’t stop growing despite our age and can expand and remodel into our 70’s. We can influence the size and shape of our mouths and improve the ability to breathe at any age. By eating rough, rawer and heartier foods requiring an hour or two a day on hard chewing, lips together, teeth slightly touching and tongue sealed to the roof of the mouth”. James Nestor.
This adaptation is seen as a consequence of the “Industrial nature of rapid evolutionary change”, especially regarding a radical change in diet and chewing behaviours, with a few generations to modern humans. The evidence of this physical change has been determined by anthropologists and orthodontists looking at the skulls of ancients and post-modern people, particularly the 6 million bodies buried in the catacombs under Paris. Historically, research was undertaken by Bohr, Buteyko and Price. Their body of work complement modern-day practitioners like Dr Marianna Evans, who researched skulls sizes to Dr John and son Dr Mike Mew in the UK, working on developing arch expansion techniques and tongue posture practice. Both continue to promote their beliefs scientifically in supreme regulatory pushback. These individuals represent a growing, independent body of professional free-thinkers that challenge the establishments wedded ideology and power.
My take-home points pertinent to my everyday practice and future development planning goals are as follows.
1.Look at patient dental arches, tongue posture and lip position, uvula and ties. Apply behavioural change exercises through visual demonstration and supportive instruction.
2.Observe dry mouth and question breathing behaviours related to dry mouth and dental disease risk and malodour. Apply beneficial behavioural change exercises through visual demonstration and supportive instruction.
3.Continue learning about breathing, focusing on combining OMT development, official Buteyko breathing training with Patrick McKeown.
4.Evolve my practice to promote dental and respiratory health and help treat sleep disorders.
5.Promote this practice diversity to future employers as a contractor via my professional website http://www.wholedentalhealth.com.
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