“Key to Major Health Issues Found in Our Jaws”
Written by: Dr. Katherine Ahn Wallace of Aviara Centers
Adpated from original article “Holistic Approach to Dentistry” published in the January 2020 issue of Jolie Magazine by John B. Wallace, DDS
The shape of your face and the alignment of your teeth have long been thought to be genetic and have traditionally been addressed mostly from an aesthetic perspective. However, recent research demonstrates that these craniofacial qualities are strongly linked to environmental factors and have implications far more critical than just outward appearance. Inadequate oral and facial development often leads to upper airway compromise which, in turn, is associated with serious health issues including chronic migraine headaches, cardio-vascular disease, stroke, and diabetes.
In the last few years, important and revolutionary discoveries have been made with respect to the connection between one’s oral health and one’s overall health. One of the earliest and most passionate advocates in this revolution is Dr. Katherine Ahn Wallace of Aviara Centers.
“Good dental health begins in infancy (some would say, in the mother’s womb), long before a single tooth has emerged,” according to Dr. Ahn. “Improper jaw development can lead to severe health issues,” explains Dr. Ahn, who has devoted her entire career to understanding and remedying the problem.
When the jaw doesn’t grow to its full size, the teeth don’t have adequate space to emerge. The typical result is a set of crowded and crooked teeth. But the more severe problem associated with an underdeveloped jaw is that it limits tongue space, preventing the tongue from functioning properly or even resting in the correct position. Furthermore, inadequate tongue space can lead to airway obstruction, the primary cause of teeth grinding, clenching, TMJ disorder, and sleep apnea. And to make matters worse, airway compromise and sleep apnea are linked to a number of conditions in children such as ADD/ADHD, poor academic performance, and latent bed wetting..
So what do you do to get your baby’s jaw to grow properly? Dr. Ahn urges mothers to breast feed for 18 to 24 months. “Breast feeding is not only perfect nutrition for the infant, it also plays a major role in jaw growth,” says Dr. Ahn. If the infant is having difficulty latching on, Dr. Ahn also advises mothers to seek evaluation by a dentist that specializes in frenectomies to see if he or she has extended frenum attachment or “lip or tongue tie” which could prevent full range of motion of the lips and tongue for proper feeding, swallowing and speech. She also explains that finger sucking, pacifier use, mouth-breathing and an inflammatory diet all serve to create an environment that contributes to improper jaw and facial growth and should be addressed as soon as feasible.
Dr. Ahn recognizes that many mothers can’t easily breast feed and for those who rely on bottle feeding, she offers suggestions to help with jaw development. For children as young as two years of age, she recommends using a special appliance designed to guide the growing jaw. For older children and adults, treatment often entails a combination of using muscle retraining appliances, jaw development appliances, and traditional braces or Invisalign. Some patients benefit from myofunctional and/or osteopathic therapy, as well as breathing, sleep and nutritional therapy. With extremely severe cases, surgical intervention may be required.
Although treatment can be rendered at any age, the best time to intervene is before the age of 10. With this said, Dr. Ahn is passionate about helping her patients of all ages achieve proper face and jaw development, improving their smiles and overall health.
Amanda Ibanez, who suffered from frequent debilitating migraine headaches, saw improvement within four weeks of beginning treatment with Dr. Ahn. Amanda sought Dr. Ahn out after exhausting numerous other treatment options that didn’t seem to work.
“I couldn’t find relief for my migraines from any other source – ER visits, daily chiropractic visits, acupuncture, dietary changes, even Botox. You name it – I tried it,” shared Amanda. “Dr. Ahn’s treatment has resulted in a beautiful smile and best of all, a migraine-free life. I am so incredibly happy that my journey led me to Dr. Ahn and her caring, holistic treatment of my jaw and total health.”
Dr. Ahn’s holistic approach to dentistry is evident in her initial consultation and turned out to be the solution to patient Mai Zazueta’s health issues.
“I wanted an improved smile and came in for veneers, but upon thorough evaluation Dr. Ahn discovered my TMJ and sleep related issues and advised that I address those issues before proceeding with my veneers” tells Mai Zazueta. “It never occurred to me that the neck and face pain or sensation of tingling and numbness in my left hand was a dental issue.”
Mai’s previous dentist took out four premolar teeth to address her dental crowding prior to braces. While this treatment straightened her teeth, it did not address the underlying issues of her constricted jaw, compromised airway, and TMJ disorder. Dr. Ahn’s comprehensive plan to correct Mai’s health issues stemming from an underdeveloped jaw entailed myofunctional therapy, frenectomy, jaw expansion and clear aligners. The result, according to Mai, was the complete elimination of her uncomfortable symptoms.
“I have no more pain, no more numbness, no more discomfort and I am excited to put the final touch to my treatment by restoring my worn teeth with veneers,” Mai says.
“My work is much like that of an architect. When a building has been damaged by time, the elements, abuse or poor construction, it is important for an architect to not only understand the aesthetic and functional goals for the building but also to work with various engineers to apply the appropriate knowledge, tools and materials needed to build a beautiful building on a solid foundation. Many of our health problems are related to our facial and jaw condition and they too can be rebuilt with advanced knowledge, tools and materials available in dentistry and medicine today. It is very gratifying to be practicing dental medicine in an era where advancements in science allows me to improve my patients’ quality of life in incredible ways.” Katherine Ahn Wallace, DDS
Meet Dr. Katherine Ahn Wallace, DDS
Undergraduate Education, Loma Linda University – La Sierra
Doctor of Dental Surgery, UCLA School of Dentistry
Pediatric Dental Residency, UCLA School of Dentistry
Post Graduate Training
TMJ & Sleep Therapy Mini Residency
American Academy of Craniofacial Pain Mini Residency
Airway Mini Residency
Myofunctional Therapy Training
Full Face Orthodontic Mini Residency
LVI Cosmetic and Neuromuscular Dentistry Training
American Dental Association
California Dental Association
Orange County Dental Society
American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry
International Association of Oral Medicine and Toxicology
International Association of Orthodontics
American Academy of Craniofacial Pain
American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine
Katherine Ahn Wallace, DDS
Huntington Beach, San Clemente, Beverly Hills