A Dentist Weighs in on How Your Breath Affects Your Oral Health–and Overall Health

If you thought your breathing habits didn’t have a measurable impact on your health, all you have to do is open your mouth, and dentist Dr. Sasha Sherry will give you a full rundown on how you’re doing. Dr. Sherry is one of the dentists who recommends Intake to her patients to help protect and maintain oral health, so we asked her a few questions about how breathing plays a part.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself, and your practice.

A: I graduated from dental school in 2018, and I run my own clinic in Shenandoah. My dad is also a dentist and has two offices in the area that I help out with, and I have one that’s kind of my baby. I’ve had the opportunity with this clinic to direct the culture and philosophies and start things off on the right foot as far as patient care. I’m very whole-health focused. Yes, I treat people’s teeth, but what I care about is their wellbeing and their health, and how they’re feeling. I’ve always been interested in the person as a whole.

As a dentist, I’m looking at my patient’s mouths and their airways and I can see that they aren’t healthy. The mouth really is the window into the rest of the body.

Dr. Sasha Sherry

Q: How does breathing factor in?

A: So, I first got into sleep apnea treatment because a lot of patients have sleep apnea. And a lot of them don’t even know they have it. As a dentist, I’m looking at my patient’s mouths and their airways and I can see that they aren’t healthy. The mouth really is the window into the rest of the body. Yes, some of it comes down to what you eat and drink, but it’s also about the way you breathe. We even make an appliance to help people keep their airways open so that they can breathe better at nighttime, and that helps maintain their oral health and helps them sleep. So, breathing well is, to me, pretty much the most important thing. And I say that even though I’m a dentist. Ultimately, you can survive without teeth, but you can’t survive if you can’t breathe.

Q: How did you find Intake, and how does it factor into your practice?

A: I spend a lot of time researching products. I came across nasal dilators a while ago–there are a lot out there–because a lot of my patients have sinusitis, rhinitis, deviated septums, really common things that make it hard to breathe. I also have a deviated septum, my nose is tiny, and my face is narrow, which is not great anatomy for breathing. I found Intake, and I decided to try it before trying to pawn it off on my patients (laughs), and I noticed a difference right away.

When you tell your patients that a certain product will help them, your recommendation has value, but what’s really important is that they’re able to try that product. We love having people try Intake in the office because you get that initial “Wow! Wow!” when they first put in on their nose and are able to take that clear breath of air.

Now, I wear Intake pretty much 24/7. My assistant wears it during the day, and our hygienist wears it all night also. It’s great for work because it helps us keep a good seal on our mask, helps us breathe, and keeps our glasses from fogging up.

Q: Is acknowledging breathing standard practice in dentistry, or not so much?

A: The whole component of how people breathe is missed by a lot of dentists. We’re not even getting taught extensively in school about airway and proper breathing, so many of us aren’t bringing that into our practice.

But if you breathe improperly, there can be so much underdevelopment of the face and the bone structure, and that causes a lot of dental problems down the road. If you treat these growth and development issues at the onset, in childhood, then you’re preventing a lot of these problems you see commonly in adults. 

For a lot of older dentists, treating breathing would completely change the way that they practice, and a lot of older dentists don’t want to change. It was hard at first for me even to be like, “okay, this is the way we’re going to do things here,” because in a lot of ways, it goes against everything we’re taught. But I wanted more for people than just what we went through school with. So for our clinic, that means the learning never ends. It makes me sleep good at night to know I’m not taking any shortcuts, and whether the patients understand or see the value of that, I don’t have control over that, but at least I know I’m doing my best by them. I’d be doing a disservice to them if I didn’t approach it this way. Watching my dad and how he runs his dentistry practice has influenced me to take care of people in the best way I know how, so I’ve taken that to heart.