Mouth Breathing and Your Health
Updated: Jan 25, 2020
It is important to realize, that mouth breathing and having an open mouth, whether day or night, are really the same thing and equally detrimental to your health.
We were designed to breathe primarily through our nose. The nose acts as a natural humidifier and filtering system that prepares the air for the body.
It is perfectly natural to breathe through your mouth occasionally, such as with strenuous exercises, but breathing through the mouth most of the time can definitely cause many health and development problems.
Why Would Someone Mouth Breathe?
Mouth breathing is a postural habit that can develop for numerous reasons. Below are the most common:
1. Allergies and asthma
2. Thumb or finger sucking habit
3. Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
4. Chronic nasal congestion
5. Respiratory infection
6. Deviated Septum
7. Nasal Polyps
8. Low muscle tone
9. Tongue tie/ Lip tie
Each of these factors may make it physically impossible for a person to nasal breathe and begin the habit of mouth breathing.
Mouth breathing may change the way the tongue works and where it rests in the mouth. Your tongue should naturally rest on the roof of your mouth. However, when you mouth breathe, it rests low. This leads to underdeveloped oral musculature and can cause problems with speech, swallowing, breathing and chewing. When the tongue rests low in the mouth it must push forward to swallow- this is called a tongue thrust. Tongue thrust and chronic mouth breathing may go hand in hand.
Growth and Development
Believe it or not, breathing through your mouth can actually change the shape of your face and alter your appearance. This is especially true for children because they are still growing.
Children whose mouth breathing goes untreated may suffer from the abnormal facial airway and dental development.
Signs of poor growth may include long, narrow faces ‘v’ shaped narrow hard palate, long soft palate, less defined cheekbones, small lower jaws, and “weak” chins. Other facial signs include gummy smiles and crooked teeth. These signs may not always be so obvious but have a profound effect on health and esteem.
Other Effects on the Body
Using the mouth for breathing disrupts our natural body mechanics. It can affect a number of bodily functions and lead to symptoms such as:
• Gingivitis and gum disease
• Sore throat and cold /allergy symptoms
• Bad breath and higher risk for cavities
• Sleep-disordered breathing (sleep apnea, snoring, UARS)
• Digestive disturbances: gas, upset stomach, acid reflux, changes in gut microbiome etc.
In children, mouth breathing has been linked to poor growth, weak academic performance and ADHD hyperactivity symptoms. In adults, it has been associated with high blood pressure, heart problems, sleep apnea and other medical issues. It is considered a sleep breathing disorder.
Mouth breathing is related to posture changes and spinal issues as well. When the tongue is in the wrong position or the airway is compromised the head rests more forward and the shoulders slump.
Mouth breathing can also affect your orthodontic treatment. When the mouth is open, the tongue is resting low in the mouth there is no support of the lips or tongue resting on the palate to guide facial growth and support the structure. This poor oral posture not only can be the cause of crooked teeth, but the time spent in braces can also be longer, and the chance for relapse after the braces are removed is much higher.
Mouth breathing causes a disturbance in the balance of gases in the body which leads to less oxygen being utilized. You also lose out on the benefit of Nitric Oxide which is released during nasal breathing.
What can be done to treat mouth breathing?
Mouth breathing may seem like an easy habit to change. Just close your mouth, right?
Unfortunately, for people who struggle with mouth breathing, it is not that easy. This is because habits can be difficult to change. All of the muscles—the tongue, lips, cheeks, etc. have learned to function in an “incorrect” way. The body does not actually know how to breathe normally, through the nose, and the nasal passages do not work efficiently in most cases as a result.
In order to stop mouth breathing, the muscles must be “re-trained” to function in new ways.
A Myofunctional Therapist (MFT) can be an instrumental figure in helping you learn to breathe in a healthy way. MFTs are skilled at helping children and adults gain control over muscle patterning habits, including those involved in mouth breathing.
If the muscles and breathing patterns are not re-trained, problems with general health, speech, orthodontic treatment, dental health, swallowing and breathing may persist throughout life. Myofunctional Therapy combined with Buteyko breathing techniques are needed to make the behavioral and muscular changes associated with mouth breathing.
Karyn Kasvin is a Myofunctional Therapist who is passionate about helping patients with mouth breathing habits and other myofunctional concerns. A graduate of USC School of Dentistry, she has over 30 years of experience as a dental hygienist, is a certified Pilates instructor and Buteyko breathing educator.
She is dedicated to providing quality care, education and equip people with the resources to help themselves.
The problems associated with mouth breathing are easy to solve with a knowledgeable and understanding therapist to guide you along the way. Karyn works with your orthodontist, dentist, and other healthcare providers to help make therapy a simple and enjoyable process for you.
Call or email for a free consultation today!