WE ALL KNOW WHAT it’s like to have a cold, with a nose so stuffy that you can’t breathe through it. At times like that, we breathe through our mouths instead, and that’s pretty much how it should work. Mouth-breathing is an emergency backup, not the default. There are many negative effects of mouth-breathing full-time, particularly if the habit begins in childhood.
Why Does Mouth-Breathing Become A Habit?
Many things can lead to a mouth-breathing habit. A small child might get a cold and then simply continue breathing through his mouth when his nose clears. A problem with bite alignment can make it difficult to keep the mouth closed. Persistent allergies, overly large tonsils, or a deviated septum could make nose-breathing difficult or impossible most of the time. Fortunately, these problems can often be solved by Myofunctional therapy and sometimes the combination of Myofunctional therapy and orthodontic treatment or surgery.
Why Mouth-Breathing Is A Problem
In the short term, mouth-breathing leads to a variety of issues, including:
- Dry mouth: mouth-breathing dries out the mouth, removing the first defense against oral bacteria. This can lead to consequences such as chronic bad breath and tooth decay.
- Lack of energy: getting less oxygen by breathing through the mouth will result in poor sleep quality and lowered energy levels overall. For kids, this means difficulty paying attention in school, and for adults, work productivity can suffer.
The negative effects of mouth-breathing don’t stop in the short-term. They can actually be life-altering, particularly when the habit begins in childhood and goes unchecked.
- Facial structure: mouth-breathing can actually lead the bones of the face to develop differently, yielding flat features, drooping eyes, a narrow jaw and dental arch, and a small chin.
- TMJ/TMD issues: The jaw joints are often the unwitting victim of poor facial development and are forced to function in a way that is damaging to the joints themselves or limits oxygen supply to the muscles of the face. This can lead to popping of the jaw joints or serious pain issues like migraine headaches, chronic head/neck/facial pain, and even numbness in the fingertips!
- Sleep apnea: the risk of sleep apnea goes up dramatically with mouth-breathing, and this can make it difficult to get a restful night’s sleep and if not corrected, can create serious health risks such as high blood pressure and stroke, and can even be fatal.
- Orthodontic treatment: the narrowed dental arch of a chronic mouth-breather rarely has enough room for the full set of adult teeth, and this will require orthodontic treatment to correct.
If you have kids or have friends with kids, this video may be the most important 3 minutes and 37 seconds of your day!
The Benefits Of Nose-Breathing
Breathing through the nose doesn’t just help you avoid the effects of mouth-breathing; it comes with additional benefits too! Here are just a few of them:
- The nose acts as an air filter, delivering clean air to the lungs and reducing the amount of allergens that get in.
- Nose-breathing produces nitric oxide, which helps with oxygen absorption and sterilizes the air.
- Nose-breathing strengthens the immune system by activating immunoglobulin production.
- Nose-breathing slows down the rate of airflow leading to more complete gas exchange.
Need Help Building Healthier Breathing Habits?
If you or your child has a mouth-breathing habit, it can be tricky to break, especially if the cause is a physical obstruction that requires treatment. Schedule a dental exam right away so the cause can be detected and you can get on the road to healthier breathing and all the benefits that come with it! We can help you to build a team to redirect growth and minimize the problems caused my mouth breathing. We even have a Myofunctional therapist on board at Aesthetic Dentistry of Georgetown to retrain proper muscle function and posture!
We are often told that we are such a valuable resource for health of our dental family and the people here in Georgetown, and this is one of the things that we take very seriously! It has been overlooked and downplayed by dentistry for far too long! Do your kids a favor, and you can help them live a significantly happier and healthier life! Run a quick test over the next week:
Take a look at your children while they are sitting quietly in the morning, mid-day, and at night. Is their mouth resting open?
Listen at their door while they are asleep. Can you hear them snore?
Quietly peek in and look at their sweet faces while they sleep. Is their mouth open?
If the answer is yes to any of the above, it is important to find out if there is any airway blockage that is making it hard for them to breathe. The consequences of this little test will last the rest of their lives!
Let us know if we can help!