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Why mouth breathing is bad for your health?

Aug 31, 2018 | Health, Sleep

At the dental gallery we routinely screen for correct breathing and tongue position during our regular 6-monthly preventative examinations

The nose is best suited for breathing because it warms, humidifies and filters the air to prevent bacteria and particles entering the lungs. Mouth breathing leads to chronic irritation of the airway and can result in enlarged adenoids and tonsils in children.

There are many research studies describing the bad health consequences of mouth breathing.

Here are a few reasons why it is bad to mouth breathe.

Less production of nitric oxide

Nitric oxide is a gas that dilates (makes larger) blood vessels in the body and as a result increases oxygen uptake by the lungs. This gas is made in the sinuses. By breathing through your mouth, you’re missing out on production of this gas and also about 10 to 20% of additional oxygen uptake. As a result, you can compensate by breathing a bit faster and breathing off carbon dioxide. This can cause your carbon dioxide levels to drop, raising blood pH levels, and preventing oxygen from being released as easily to your body’s tissues.

It can cause crooked teeth

Breathing through your mouth prevents your face and jaw from developing properly. Inadequate jaw development can lead to crowding of your teeth and even narrowing of the upper airway. For children, one of the biggest causes of teeth crowding is habitually breathing through the mouth rather than the nose.

One extreme example is often referred to as “Adenoid Facies”, which results in an open mouth and forward head posture, long, narrow face, high arched hard palate, recessed lower jaw, and chronic nasal congestion. Having a smaller jaw can make you much more susceptible to future sleep-related breathing disorders.

It can lead to dental cavities

Mouth breathing leads to you having less saliva and a dry mouth. Saliva reduces acid levels, and can help to prevent plaque build-up. Mouth breathing can also cause you to have bad breath.

Mouth breathing can cause your tongue to fall backwards in your mouth

Ever wondered why it’s harder for you to breathe when lying down in a dentist’s chair with your mouth wide open? Opening your mouth causes your tongue to fall back, preventing proper breathing and in severe cases can obstruct the airway. For adults, the changes to the airway introduced by mouth-breathing while sleeping can give rise to snoring and sleep apnoea.

Concerned? Here are some signs of mouth breathing:

  • Dry lips
  • Having an open mouth posture
  • Dry mouth with inflamed gums
  • A long and narrow face
  • Narrow high arched palate
  • Crowded teeth or lack of spacing between baby teeth
  • Enlarged tonsils
  • Having a forward head posture

Some Common causes of mouth-breathing are:

  • Allergies
  • Chronic colds and sinus infections
  • Enlarged adenoids and/or tonsils
  • Nasal polyps
  • Deviated nasal septum

So what can be done to address mouth-breathing?

At the dental gallery we take an integrative approach to mouth breathing and work with Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) specialists and medical professionals to address the causes. This includes:

  • Airway assessment with an ENT specialist
  • Assessment and management of chronic allergies and infections
  • Breathing retraining

Targeted dental treatment:
In children we can expand the upper jaw and this can allow the tongue to sit properly on the palate and correct teeth crowding.
In some cases the lower jaw can also be brought forward to improve the airway.
In mouth breathing adults, we can bring the lower jaw forward with a mandibular advancement splint.