Katie Moynihan, BS RDH
Are You a Mouth Breather?
Breathing out of your mouth may not seem like a huge problem, but in terms of oral health and facial development, mouth breathing can create numerous oral health concerns. Chronic mouth breathing occurs when your body cannot get enough oxygen through your nose, therefore, must resort to your mouth for the necessary oxygen supply. It can be caused by several different factors – obstructive, habitual, and anatomic conditions. In most cases, mouth breathing is caused by chronic nasal obstruction. Examples of this include enlarged tonsils, allergies, nasal congestion, asthma, and nasal polyps. It may also be caused just by habit. A person might not even know any better because it is the norm for them to breathe through their mouth. Some anatomic conditions that can cause mouth breathing include Down syndrome, malocclusion, tongue thrusting, cerebral palsy, and sleep apnea. Each of these conditions contribute to the deprivation of oxygen which can lead to a host of unpleasant symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of mouth breathing in dentistry include:
- dry lips and mouth
- decreased saliva
- inflamed and bleeding gums
- increased plaque
- frequent cavities
- chronic bad breath
- swollen tonsils/adenoids
Mouth breathing has been known to cause developmental problems in children. Often times children breathe through their mouth habitually and many parents never think twice about it. However, if left undiagnosed and untreated, it may lead to permanent skeletal deformities. The face can begin to grow long and narrow, the nose can become flat with small nostrils, and the lips can be thin on top and quite pouty on the bottom. This, in addition to the other negative effects to oral health, shows that mouth breathing is a whole body problem and should be treated as early as possible.
Yes, you read that right, mouth breathing can be treated! You would think that it would be an easy habit to change – just close your mouth, right? Unfortunately, for people who struggle with mouth breathing, it’s not that easy. The body simply doesn’t know how to breathe normally, and the muscles of the face and mouth have compensated and learned to work incorrectly. In order to stop mouth breathing, the muscles must be re-trained to function in new ways. Treatment includes respiratory exercises, lifestyle changes, and in some cases medical surgeries and devices. If you feel as though your mouth breathing is occurring more than normal, please consult with your dental or health care professional to determine the cause and treatment needed to correct your chronic mouth breathing.
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