Airway Development and SDB

d10a.jpg (9394 bytes)  Don A. Pantino, DDS 

Dentistry’s role in the treatment of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) has primarily been in providing oral appliance therapy as well as surgical treatment options. I believe an even more important role will be played by dentists in the prevention of SDB through early recognition and intervention. Few health care providers are fortunate to have the long-term relationships and timely access to their patients as dentists do, permitting us to evaluate and monitor many aspects of health including airway development.

This issue of Sleep Review begins a two-part series by Brian Palmer, DDS, on page 40, who will share his many years of research and expertise regarding the anatomical, anthropological, and behavioral origins of SDB. Some of the topics he discusses are the development and uniqueness of the human airway, breastfeeding, and its implications in the development of malocclusions, improper swallowing, and behavioral habits, which contribute to the development of SDB. Additionally, he discusses the many anatomical and morphological characteristics that are clinically apparent in these patients as well as the importance of early recognition and intervention through orthodontic management.

The pediatric sleep patient poses many diagnostic and treatment challenges as well as the best opportunity for the prevention or cure of SDB. The importance of sleep and its relationship to learning, behavior, and other childhood conditions such as bedwetting and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are just beginning to be understood. As the adage goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” I am confident that you will find this interesting and unique look at SDB useful in both your professional and personal lives.

The Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine’s 12th annual conference, held in conjunction with the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, will take place in Chicago on June 6-8. It will feature an international gathering of clinicians and scientists who study and treat sleep-disordered breathing. For program and registration information, visit  

Don A. Pantino, DDS, is immediate past president of the Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine; associate clinical professor at the State University of Dentistry and Medicine at Stony Brook, NY; and a member of Sleep Review’s Editorial Advisory Board.