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The Neurological Consequences of a Misfit Mouth on Sleep

How breathing affects our children’s sleep and how many pediatricians and orthodontist miss the root cause.

Dr. Simmons discusses the critical need for earlier detection of dental problems to mitigate future health challenges. He explains why people’s mouths hold the secret to good sleep. He connects the importance of good sleep to better health later in life.

The lower jaw, or mandible, has a massive influence on our health and well-being. The mandible holds the tongue, and is part of the upper airway. When the jaw is small, it reduces the space for the tongue, crowds the back of the throat while asleep, and frequently leads to Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This seemingly minor situation of a small jaw increases our risk of heart disease, stroke, heartburn and a host of other health issues. When asleep, the tongue and muscles of the jaw typically relax and the back of the airway can become crowded. In many, the body attempts to prevent this blockage with actions such as, grinding-and-clenching teeth while asleep, keeping the airway open. This leads to tempormandibular joint dysfunction, pain and destruction of teeth. As a neurologist, I exam the jaw and teeth of patients, looking for signs of sleep apnea. Physicians working with dentists can screen patients with this jaw problem and initiate treatment early-on, even in kids, before years of suffering takes place. Jerald H. Simmons, M.D. is the Founding-Director of Comprehensive Sleep Medicine Associates, PA (CSMA) and the Sleep Education Consortium (SEC). He is Triple Board-Certified in Neurology, Epilepsy and Sleep Medicine. A graduate of Ohio State University, he trained in Neurology at Washington University, Sleep Medicine at Stanford University and Epilepsy at University of California. He began his professional career as Assistant Professor of Neurology at UCLA while co-directing the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center and directing the Clinical Neuro-physiology lab at Olive View UCLA. In 1999 he moved to Houston establishing his neurology / sleep disorders / epilepsy practice. He continues to conduct research studies relating to sleep disorders and developing methods to enhance the assessment and treatment of patients with sleep disturbances. His most recent research involves the relationship between Clenching / Sleep Bruxism / TMJ Disorder with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, as well as the relationship between ADHD and disturbances of sleep. He is currently extending his practice to provide assessment and treatment of patients who sustained concussions. Education has been an important aspect of his career, having trained medical students, residents and fellows in sleep medicine and then establishing the SEC as an outreach to educate the healthcare community. He has been instrumental in advancing collaborative care amongst different types of heath care professionals and is now leading a national effort to enhance the screening of children for sleep related breathing disorders so that early intervention can transform the lives of future generations. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at