The majority of people naturally breathe through the nose, which is a good thing because it filters out harmful toxins before they enter the lungs. The only time when mouth breathing should take over is when the sinuses are blocked or during physical exercise. When people mouth breathe outside of this, including while sleeping, it can lead to major oral health issues and can cause facial development problems in children.
Mouth Breathing Indicators
Often, people breathe through their mouths without realizing it, especially during the night. However, you can get booked in at your dentist and work out a solution if you notice any of the following:
- Increased teeth sensitivity
- Noticeable snoring
- Cracked lips
- Chronic bad breath
- Swollen and bleeding gums
- Ear infections and sinus issues
- More frequent colds
Mouth Breathing Causes
Mouth breathing may be a force of habit, but it’s often caused by nasal blockages. However, there are other causes as well, including:
- Anxiety and stress. Abnormal breathing patterns, such as rapid breathing, caused by anxiety and stress can lead to mouth breathing.
- Small jaw. Mouth breathing can lead to a narrower jaw, just as a smaller jaw can lead to mouth breathing.
- Large adenoids. A collection of small bumps on the roof of your mouth, which are designed to protect children from viruses, can become inflamed and block the airway.
- Deviated septum. The cartilage between your nostrils can be misaligned, blocking your airway.
- Nasal polyps. These growths inside the nose, if not treated, can lead to blocked airways.
- Obstructive sleep apnea. This common condition interrupts breathing during the night, and it leads to mouth breathing.
Once you’ve established mouth breathing and figured out the cause, with help from your dentist, a treatment plan can be put in place. However, before we begin discussing treatments, let’s take a look at what issues consistent mouth breathing can cause.
Saliva is designed to keep harmful bacteria at bay. Therefore, when mouth breathing dries you out, there are zero defense mechanisms in place. Prolonged exposure to harmful bacteria leads to gum disease, which is the first step towards gingivitis, which is only reversible in the earliest stages.
When gum disease is ignored, your teeth will likely fall out, which isn’t great for your wider oral health. Unfortunately, teeth falling out isn’t the worst symptom, as gum disease has been linked to respiration problems, strokes, and diabetes.
Tooth Decay and Dry Mouth
As we’ve already established, mouth breathing will impact saliva reduction and lead to more frequent instances of dry mouth. Your mouth becomes highly acidic as a result, which makes you more susceptible to tooth decay. In particular, people with a persistently dry mouth are more likely to develop gumline tooth decay, which will call for restorative dental procedures.
Facial Development and Children
According to works published by the National Library of Medicine, around 10% of young children suffer from chronic mouth breathing. Unfortunately, at such a young age, it can lead to facial deformities like long-face syndrome. As well as this, it can lead to a crossbite, impacted teeth, and overcrowding. Research has also shown that chronic mouth breathing in children can lead to speech problems later in life.
How to Deal with Mouth Breathing
Understanding the cause of your mouth breathing is the key to solving the problem, so you may need to consult your dentist for some support. For example, if you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, you may need to find ways to keep your mouth closed at night; see this article on the proven benefits of mouth taping. Alternatively, if cosmetic issues are causing mouth breathing, you may have to have corrective surgery.
Sometimes, mouth breathing is too intense to be handled with targeted treatments. In this case, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) may be needed, which involves wearing a mask overnight to help with your breathing.
If you recognize any of the symptoms above, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the dentist. Although mouth breathing does not feel like a major issue, it can lead to medical issues reaching further than the mouth. If caught early, the impact of mouth breathing can often be reversed.