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.
Interesting as a dentist:
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.