If you weren’t one of the lucky ones to have attended Jeff Rouse's first seminar at Spear Education on Airway Prosthodontics in August, you need to sign up for the next one you can. You’ll notice that any of the workshops or seminars at Spear have been re-worked a bit to discuss airway. Jeff Rouse is changing things in dentistry by leaps and bounds, and I think over time, he’ll be dramatically impacting the medical world as we know it.

I often say that Spear Education changed my life. It brought me out of a very dark place in dentistry three years into my career. While it didn’t save my life in the literal sense at that time, what Jeff Rouse has recently brought to Spear is as close to literally saving my life as I think a dental lecture could get.

If you’ve heard Jeff speak before, one of the common groups of individuals affected by airway issues is the “young, fit female.” That’s me. While I don’t typically use Digest posts for personal recaps, I think this is an appropriate place to do so.

My personal journey to an open airway

I am a four on the floor extraction case. I’ve struggled with severe environmental allergies that have led me to carry around an EpiPen since puberty. I have chronic dry mouth, sleep with my mouth wide open, wake up at 2:00 a.m. with an adrenaline rush and have always grabbed a tuft of tissue between my teeth to keep my mouth slightly open throughout the day. Dentally, spaces were opening around my laterals and I began wearing the incisal edge of #8 pretty significantly.

After years of allergy shots that did nothing but induce a few anaphylactic reactions in the doctor’s office; fatigue I attributed to double majoring in college, going through dental school, working long days and starting a practice from scratch; and sleepless nights I thought (and was medically advised) were related to a stressful career, I heard Jeff Rouse speak for the first time at the 2016 Faculty Club Summit and ­­realized all of these issues were related and could be improved.

I’m going to leave the Seattle Protocol to the expert himself, but I’ve personally benefited from opening my airway in a less traditional way that has allowed me to proceed through the protocol. I’m going through dental treatment to increase my tongue space and correct a lingualized occlusion, and I’m mouth taping, but I wouldn’t be able to stop this early in the protocol if I hadn’t opened my airway.

My nasal congestion was awful when I realized I had an airway problem. I didn’t want to take daily antihistamines after reading articles relating them to dementia later in life, and I wasn’t getting great results from Flonase. I was going to see an ENT to look at the possibility of surgical intervention, but I saw a naturopath first.

With the naturopath I had a series of tests done that included food sensitivity testing, saliva testing for cortisol levels, urine, hair and blood tests. What I learned was that my blood pressure (which had been 140/90 for the last decade, with no explanation other than “genetics”), nasal congestion, sleep disturbances and overall energy levels could be improved through dietary changes. I was eating a fairly healthy diet of poultry and fish with a lot of beans and vegetables, and I ate local and organic whenever possible. I thought I was doing everything right. My BMI is where it should be, I exercise fairly regularly and I take good care of myself.

What my sensitivity testing showed me was that many of the foods I was consuming were greatly increasing my histamine production and my body was working really hard all the time. Years of inappropriate breathing with off-kilter oxygen and carbon monoxide levels, in conjunction with a diet that was aggravating the problem, led me to live a very unhealthy life, despite all my efforts to “do what’s right” and my physical appearance of health.

I’ve attached some of the details of my testing to show you (only a fraction) of the detail it went into. I won’t go into the nitty gritty of the testing here, but if you’re interested in learning more, read “Adrenal Fatigue-The 21st Century Stress Syndrome” by James Wilson.

diet dental airway and breathing
physiological dental airway issues

Interesting as a dentist:

toxic metals testing allergies airway
testing airway issues
testing airway nutrition issues

Just to name a few easy-to-understand examples, I found that the chamomile tea I was drinking at night is a type of ragweed, which I’m highly sensitive to. I found that eggs, avocado, green beans, dairy and wheat, among a number of foods, were negatively affecting my body.

Through dietary changes that were very specific to my personal test results, as well as vitamin supplementation, over the last five months I’ve been able to breathe through my nose for what feels like the first time. My hygienist alerted me to the fact that I began routinely complimenting the smell of patients' hair or perfumes. My husband and I were walking around Vegas at a recent convention and he pointed out how many smells I was strongly reacting to. The dime-sized tufts of tissue in my mouth that I used to grab onto aren’t there anymore. My energy levels are up, I’m sleeping through the night, and I feel better.

Seeing a naturopath didn’t solve my life problems in a vacuum. I’m working with Gregg and my local orthodontist to improve things dentally, and I’m mouth-taping while I sleep. It’s not a quick fix to change your diet as drastically as most will have to after testing, and you definitely don’t get better overnight. Seeing a naturopath is expensive, and you have to be dedicated to following through with some really hard dietary changes.

But as Jeff brings about a new push for dentistry to think outside the box and move our interdisciplinary treatment options beyond the dental world, I want to highlight an additional option for your patients to entertain when you start embarking upon addressing airway issues.

As I continue to learn with and through Jeff’s teaching at Spear, I hope to be able to improve the quality of life of my patients the way that Jeff has improved mine.

(Click this link for more dentistry articles by Dr. Courtney Lavigne.)

Courtney Lavigne, D.M.D., Spear Visiting Faculty and Contributing Author - http://www.courtneylavigne.com


Commenter's Profile Image Rodney B.
October 25th, 2017
Courtney, Thanks for sharing your story. It's awesome you are on a positive health journey. So what do you think might be driving the high Mercury numbers?
Commenter's Profile Image Courtney L.
October 25th, 2017
Hi Rodney...I wondered if anyone would pick up on that! Occupational exposure is the most likely cause. I no longer eat tuna, but I was previously. I've changed my amalgam removal process and am getting re-tested soon, so I'll keep you updated!
Commenter's Profile Image Chia W.
October 26th, 2017
Thank you for sharing your experience Courtney! I look forward to hearing more about your health journey as I am on a similar path :) I'm curious what type of amalgam removal process have you utilized in your office?
Commenter's Profile Image Courtney L.
October 26th, 2017
Hi Chia! Stay tuned with Digest, article in the works now on amalgam removal!
Commenter's Profile Image Kelly H.
October 26th, 2017
Thank you for sharing this personal experience Courtney! So much of this and what little I have seen from Jeff is something I see in my own wife. Shes gone through the regular allergy testing and shots multiple times and ENTs have all but given up on reducing her congestion with anything but flonase. She's hesitant any time I try to get her on minor interventions I know like mouth taping (which I personally love) and will do so for one or two nights just to get me to shut up. Was there anything that really hit home for you that would help me when i'm trying to discuss the process or benefits?
Commenter's Profile Image Courtney L.
October 26th, 2017
Hi Kelly! For me, I got sick of being and feeling sick. My husband was sick of my sneezing and restless sleep. He had gone through dietary changes in 2007 for IBS that drastically impacted his life, and we had a friend from Seattle that had great success with a naturopath. If your wife wants to talk to someone that feels the way she feels, I'm happy to connect with her!
Commenter's Profile Image Hunter D.
October 29th, 2017
What test panels did the naturopath order that you shared in this article?
Commenter's Profile Image Amber A.
October 31st, 2017
Thanks for another great article Courtney. I love that you are always learning, and so honest about your experiences, it's really easy to relate to and inspiring. I also have changed my mercury removal protocol in the last year, and think that we should all be examining that for the health of ourselves and our patients.
Commenter's Profile Image Courtney L.
November 5th, 2017
Hi Hunter! These are partial results from saliva, blood, urine, and hair samples! Amber, thank you so much for the kind words. It's nice to know the content is resonating, and I'm glad to know you're also re-evaluating your mercury removal protocol!
Commenter's Profile Image Daren B.
December 27th, 2017
Courtney, thank you for your story. Many of us are learning through our own experiences (and that of our own kids). I hope you are continuing to improve. I was curious if you have you been retested yet? What were the results? Are there measurable differences now that you are breathing through your nose and sleeping better? Are you still having to mouth tape or have you been able to discontinue that practice? What is the dental tx you are undergoing? Have the mercury levels come down now that you’ve cut down on the deep water fish?