Your face is your introduction to the world, an asset beyond value. Yet few people stop to think about the bones that are the foundation of your face. Today, adult orthodontic techniques may reshape the face and sphenoid bone.
In the eyes of a trained dentist, the face shows signs of the body’s distress. Snoring, upper airway resistance syndrome and tongue posture can prevent proper breathing, sleep cycles, and be detrimental to brain health. We now understand sleep apnea and other sleep disorders better than ever before, and with that understanding comes innovative new ways to solve these problems.
Today, most of the population do not grow jaws that fit thirty-two teeth. Even for those that have, they can still have less developed facial bones than our ancestors had in the not so distant past. Lack of jaw development affects the whole craniofacial system.
One of the most common problems is a lack of upper jaw development; this indicates a nasal airway that has less volume. These problems can underlie sleep disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia.
In the past, there has been no treatment for lack of cranial development. Once bones are set, they are hard to change. The good news is that there are new and exciting treatment options. Maxillary growth, or upper jaw growth, is an option to reduce sleep disorders and experience better breathing. It’s an arm of functional dentistry that aims to help cure adult sleep disorders.
An unexpected benefit is that it reshapes the entire face to be more symmetrical. It also leads us to a fascinating link to a little discussed bone, the sphenoid. Let’s explore the mystery of the nasal airways and the sphenoid bone as the basis of better brain health.
Adult Orthodontics, Face and Airway Development
The maxilla is the foundation of the nasal airway and is one of the most influential bones of the head. Underdeveloped maxilla increases your risk of sleep apnea, chronic rhinosinusitis, nasal polyps, snoring, upper airway resistance, and other problems. This can lead to a retruded (displaced backwards) mandible, leaving not enough room for the tongue and a compromised airway.
In children, myofunctional orthodontics can help prevent braces and crooked teeth by addressing the root cause of why the jaw isn’t growing properly.
In adults, main treatments include:
- Mandibular advancement splints – a dental device to hold the jaw forward.
- CPAP machine – a machine that pumps air down the throat to breathe.
- MMAS Surgery – a surgical technique separate and pull the maxilla forward.
Each of these treatments have advantages and drawbacks, and in my view, the drawbacks far outweigh the benefits. This lead me to the world of adult orthodontics. A few years ago in New York City, I spent time with the co-author of this article, Dr. Theodore Belfor, exploring his approach to adult orthodontics.
Dr. Belfor is a co-founder of Advanced Facialdontics. He has spent the last 6 years perfecting his use of a piece of software used by brain surgeons called Analyze 12. He uses data acquired by cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) of jaws, teeth and airways for patient evaluation and treatment.
Today, some specialists use CBCT data to measure airways, a practice that has been criticized over its debated accuracy. However, the use of CBCT to accurately scan bone is unquestionable.
Adult Maxillary Development for Sleep Apnea and Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome
Over the years in his practice and case studies, Dr. Belfor was able to build a unique protocol for craniofacial development. His adult orthodontic developmental device is called the Homeoblock, which works by growing the maxilla and mandible.
For a long time, it was thought that the maxilla could not be grown in adults; it was assumed that the sutures fused and did not allow the bone to grow. However, we now know that if stimulated, stem cells can grow new bone, which also means you can grow your jaw bigger at any time of your life.
Adult orthodontics & orthopaedics benefits
For 20 years, Dr. Belfor’s patients have seen benefits of Homeoblock treatment, including the relieving of:
- Jaw pain
- Headaches and migraines
- Anxiety, depression
- Chronic Digestive disorders
- Upper airway resistance
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Heart rate variability
- Facial asymmetry
- Chronic rhinosinusitis
Spanning 6-24 months, slow maxillary morphogenesis helps to increase the volume of the maxilla and open the small openings from the paranasal sinuses to the back of the nose, called the ostia.
Chewing, Jaw Growth & Facial Symmetry
Here’s where things get interesting. There are other devices out on the market, but Dr. Belfor uses a unilateral bite block, which means that one side of the teeth will connect. The purpose of the Uniblock technology that Homeoblock uses is to signal to the body and replace the missing hard food in our diet which allows adult stem cells to become bone growing cells.
In the diagnostic session, a facial photograph is taken to identify the ‘undeveloped’ side of the face as well as a CBCT scan to look at the underdeveloped airway. From this, dental models are constructed and the device is made.
Some signs of lack of symmetry that anyone can see are:
- Eyes that are different sizes or at different levels.
- Drooping of the upper or lower eyelid.
- Asymmetry around the mouth.
- A deeper nasolabial (smile line) depression on one side.
- Head posture to one side and shoulder asymmetry due to jaw imbalance.
It is documented that we are attracted to people with facial symmetry, as demonstrated by the “Marquardt Beauty Mask.” The results are evident; the patient pictured below demonstrates higher, wider cheekbones, less aging around the eyes, and a stronger jaw after 2 years of treatment with the Homeoblock appliance.
The red and yellow parts indicate some of the bone growth after using the Homeoblock over a 2 year period. These results are certified by Analyze Direct, who are affiliated with the Mayo Clinic.
These before and after images display improved axial airway tone in the same patient pictured above.
Airways, the Jawbones, and Sphenoid Bone Changes
The changes to the sphenoid bone can be seen in yellow. We also see mandible bone change
In the left hand photo here we see changes in the sphenoid bone in yellow; these changes are consistent with the mandible moving downward and forward on the patient’s left side. The mandible is attached to the sphenoid by the medial and lateral pterygoid muscle. The photo on the right shows the repositioning of the mandible for ideal symmetry after using the Homeoblock applicance for 2 years.
After treatment, we see resolved breathing and sleep disorders and the face appears more symmetrical. This was a finding that crossed disciplines into the chiropractic and craniosacral therapy. For the brain though, the sphenoid bone is as vital as it comes.
Below are case studies that Dr. Belfore has shared of 12 month + Homeoblock treatment.
The Sphenoid Bone as the Base of the Brain
In terms of a critical support piece for your brain, the sphenoid bone couldn’t be more important. It is an unpaired bone of the neurocranium (the upper and back part of the skull) and is the only bone connected to every other bone in the head.
The maxilla sits in front of the sphenoid bone. So, as the maxilla remodels the fascial and muscular connections to the sphenoid bone, it also reshapes them too.
When I saw these results I realized that the sphenoid was the missing link. It is the base of the cranium, the link to the maxilla, and it also supports the soft palate. But it could also be called the highest vertebrae, as it links to the C1, or atlas vertebrae, the first vertebrae of the spine, and feeds the arteries and nerves all the way down down the spinal cord.
It provides the pivot point for the vertebrae and head to meet.
- It is the site of attachment of most of the tongue and chewing muscles.
- Many arteries and nerves pass through the sphenoid.
- Closely linked to the ventricle system, the sphenoid passes CSF flow through it.
When we have a narrow maxilla, the sphenoid bone is likely also underdeveloped.
Cerebrospinal Fluid Flow
CSF flow is like the life-blood of the brain. As we have seen, the pressure from breathing pushes CSF up the spinal column.
During exhalation, increased pressure in the chest causes a shift of CSF up to the sphenoid ventricle system. The sphenoid bone receives the CSF and pushes it through the ventricle system. The ventricles house these most precious outputs of the brain, and sphenoid bone deformities are known to produce CSF leaks.
At the front, the sphenoid serves as a bony encasing for the pituitary gland. At the back is the pineal gland, which is uniquely bathed in CSF with its own blood-pineal barrier. In the daytime, the pituitary releases a cascade of functioning hormones, and at night the pineal sends melatonin to calm and sleep.
As the foundation for these glands, the sphenoid bone could not be more critical.
Pituitary, Pineal Gland and Hormone Release
In Taoism and Craniosacral therapy, the goal is to balance the endocrine hormones. The endocrine system includes the following glands:
- Pineal Gland: Melatonin, serotonin, & dimethyltryptamine.
- Hypothalamus: Anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH): Growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) or Growth hormone-inhibiting hormone (GHIH), Oxytocin: Prolactin-releasing hormone (PRH) or Prolactin-inhibiting hormone (PIH) Thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH).
- Pituitary Gland: Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), Growth hormone (GH), Luteinizing hormone (LH). Prolactin, Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH):
- Thyroid: Triiodothyronine and Thyroxine (T3 & T3)
- Parathyroid gland: Parathyroid hormone
- Adrenal Glands: Cortisol
- Pancreas: Insulin, Somatostatin, Gastrin and Glucagon
- Ovaries/Testes: Estrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone.
Endocrine hormones released throughout the body guide each and every bodily process and govern how they function. The sphenoid bone houses two of the highest endocrine glands.
The pituitary gland is housed in the Sella turcica of the sphenoid bone. It is ‘milked’ as it releases hormones in the blood circulation.
The pineal gland is located in the centre of the brain, sitting behind and above the pituitary gland. The pineal is close to the access to the third ventricle and is bathed in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). It has more blood flow per cubic volume than any other organ, and may well be the gland with the highest concentration of energy in the body. In addition to its high concentrations of CSF and blood, the pineal gland is also the dominant source of the body’s melatonin.
For a long-time it was thought the hypothalamus was the highest endocrine gland. Today, studies reveal that melatonin is the master hormone of the body, and the pineal gland, the main secretor of melatonin in the body, is the true highest endocrine gland. The pineal gland monitors day-night circadian rhythm to release melatonin into the blood stream, and so it plays an essential role in sleep hygiene and brain health.
Adult orthodontics provides a functional way to reshape the face, sphenoid bone, and reverse breathing related sleep disorders.
The maxillary remodelling and sutural homeostasis resulting in sphenoid changes could be a critical piece in sleep disorder healing and brain health. As the platform for the endocrine system, the pineal gland, pituitary and CSF flow, the sphenoid bone could be the most important bone in the body.
Few conditions, especially sleep disorders, can happen without hormone regulation. Breathing regulating, adult orthodontics, and correct tongue and spinal posture could help resolve a variety of chronic diseases, and another nice added benefit is a more symmetrical face.
For more information on the Homeoblock and POD Treatment for facial symmetry and sleep disordered breathing treatment, visit Dr. Belfor’s website: https://www.facialdevelopment.com