Mouth Breathing & Your Oral Health

Although mouth breathing is a perfectly normal way to breathe, it can often lead to problems such as dry mouth, bad breath, and sleep apnea. One of the reasons for this is that mouth breathing allows air to bypass the nose, which is designed to filter and humidify air as it enters the body. As a result, mouth breathers often suffer from a condition known as nasal obstruction, which can cause a host of problems, including snoring, difficulty breathing, and even sleep apnea.

In addition, mouth breathing can also lead to dehydration, as the body loses moisture through evaporation. Finally, mouth breathers are more likely to develop cavities, as bacteria can thrive in a dry environment. While mouth breathing is not necessarily harmful, it is important to be aware of the potential problems that can arise.

When Does Mouthbreathing Occur?

Some people mouth breathe when they are asleep, have a cold or congestion, or even on a day-to-day basis. Allergies often give way to mouth breathing, as well as issues such as chronic nasal obstruction. Whatever makes it physically impossible for a person to breathe through their nose results in the body’s only other choice – mouth breathing.

Does your child often breathe with an open mouth? How about your significant other? Do they snore loudly and wake up exhausted every day? Unfortunately, other harmful health concerns contribute to mouth breathing as well. Many people don’t realize this can actually be a complex health concern and should be checked out by your dentist and physician.

Mouth Breathing

13 Signs and Symptoms of Mouth Breathing:

  • Crowded teeth – can be a long term side-effect if left untreated
  • Dry mouth
  • Digestive upset
  • Poor sleep – even though you got all 8 hours. Can cause chronic fatigue
  • Snoring
  • Morning headaches
  • Red or inflamed gums
  • Dry lips
  • Cavities – raises your risk of getting cavities.
  • Bad breath
  • Frequent airway infections
  • Sore throat
  • Cold symptoms
  • Health Issues Caused By Mouth Breathing
  • Improper Facial Growth & Skeletal Deformities

Mouth breathing can alter your child’s face shape and jaw position. This is most often seen in children because of their continued and generally rapid growth. Facial growth often leads to long, narrow faces with regressed cheekbones, lower jaw, and chin. Because of this, teeth may become crooked, while smiles may appear gummier.

Even posture can be affected due to the facial and skeletal issues connected to breathing issues. In order to breathe more easily, the airway must be open. Hunched shoulders and a forward-leaning head help to open the airways while negatively influencing posture.

Mouth Breathing & Speech Impediments

Many mouth-breathing children between the ages of 4 and 12 have speech alterations and impediments such as sound omissions, lisps, and articulatory disorders. Breathing issues can change the way the tongue works, known as a tongue “thrust.” This negatively affects speech, swallowing, and chewing. This could lead to a child feeling self-conscious. Depending on the severity of the speech impediment(s), a speech pathologist may be necessary to correct speech alterations and slurs.

Snoring & Sleep Apnea Caused By Mouth Breathing

Because mouth breathing is most often a result of nasal obstruction, sleep issues are common. Snoring and nights filled with poor sleep are more prevalent in mouth breathers as well. The resulting fatigue and headaches can be debilitating! Sleep is vital at all ages, and anything that inhibits quality sleep should be properly addressed.

Also, this can further affect and aggravate sleep apnea. Untreated obstructive sleep apnea can cause depression, anxiety, weight gain, and high blood pressure. That being said, mouth breathing and sleep apnea can be a deadly combo. Learn how to treat sleep apnea.

Sleeping With Your Mouth Open

When you sleep, your body relaxes, and your breathing becomes shallow. This can cause your mouth to fall open, which can lead to a number of problems.

First, it can cause you to snore. Snoring occurs when the airway is obstructed, and mouth breathing is one of the most common causes of obstruction. In addition, mouth breathing can dry out your mouth, leading to bad breath and an increased risk of gum disease.

Second, when oxygen is inhaled through the mouth rather than the nose, your blood is not actually getting all of the oxygen that it needs. This can lead to heart problems and other health issues.

Finally, sleeping with your mouth open can also lead to teeth grinding (bruxism). If you regularly wake up with a headache or a sore jaw, it may be because you’re grinding your teeth at night. If you’re concerned about any of these issues, talk to your doctor or dentist. They can help you find ways to reduce the effects of mouth breathing.

What Can Be Done to Help Limit Mouth Breathing?

Practice Breathing Through the Nose

  1. Inhale through the mouth and relax the jaw, inhaling through the nose.
  2. Then take a finger or knuckle and close one nostril.
  3. Slowly exhale through open nostril.
  4. Do this about 10 times, alternating between nostrils.
  5. You may even notice that one nostril tends to be more blocked than the other and choose to breathe through the blocked nostril.
    Goal: This exercise improves nasal breathing, which helps stabilize the airway during sleep.

Tongue Exercises to help

Tongue exercise #1: Tongue Slide
Place the tip of your tongue on the back of your upper front teeth. Slowly slide the tongue back with the tip moving along the roof of the mouth. Repeat 510 times.
Goal: Strengthen the muscles of the tongue and throat.

Tongue Exercise #2: Tongue Stretch
Pull your tongue out as far as you can. Try to touch your chin with your tongue while looking up at the ceiling. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and gradually increase the time. Repeat 5 times.
Objective of the exercise: to increase the strength of the tongue

Tongue exercise #3: push the tongue up
Bring the tongue upwards against the roof of the mouth and press the whole tongue into it. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
Goal: Improve the tone and strength of the tongue and soft palate

Tongue exercise #4: Tongue thrust down
Place the tip of your tongue against your lower front teeth, then push your tongue back down to the floor of your mouth. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
Goal: Improve the timbre and strength of the tongue and soft palate

Preventing Mouth Breathing

  • Using saline mist on long flights or cruises
  • Using saline mist and nasal sprays and decongestants or allergy medications at the first sign of an allergy or cold
  • Lying on your back with your head raised to open airways and promote nasal breathing
  • Keep your home clean and allergen-free
  • Install air filters in heating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to prevent the spread of substances and allergens in your home

Why You Should Breathe Through Your Nose

  • The nose acts as a filter and traps small particles in the air, including pollen
  • The nose humidifies the air to prevent dryness of the lungs and bronchi
  • The nose warms cold air to body temperature before it reaches your lungs
  • Nose breathing adds resistance to the airflow. This increases oxygen uptake by maintaining the elasticity of the lungs

Contact Snodgrass-King for More Help Stopping Mouth Breathing

Thankfully, mouth breathers can learn to change this habit. Ensure that your child’s presumed “ADD” or “ADHD” is not actually a lack of focus caused by poor sleep due to breathing issues. Look for the previously mentioned signs and symptoms, and take action. Breathing issues can be corrected, but it is easier to correct when caught early. Parents, keep an eye out and call us to schedule a thorough dental exam for your child. Or request an appointment online!