Breathing through the mouth most of the time, including when you're sleeping, can lead to problems.
In children, mouth breathing can cause crooked teeth, allergies, recurrent infections, facial deformities, or poor growth.
In adults, chronic mouth breathing can cause bad breath and gum disease. It can also worsen symptoms of other illnesses.
Mouth breathing does not mean that the lips stay open all the time. Snoring, teeth grinding, deep sighs, excessing yawning all indicate there is compensation by breathing through the mouth.
The tongue is the major shaper of the palate and jaw and can perform its function when it is in the proper position. It is NEVER in the proper position when a child is mouth breathing or exhibiting open mouth posture during the day or while asleep.
Fact: The tongue can exert up to 500g (17.5oz) of force, making it one of the strongest muscles in the human body. And to move a single tooth, it only takes 1.7g (0.05oz) of force.
When someone breathes through the mouth, they are gulping more air than they need. Despite this surplus, mouth breathing is less efficient than taking more shallow breaths through the nose. Mouth breathing also can be a gateway to the development of a sleep breathing disorder, even in young children. A sleep breathing disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea, means frequent disruptions of the sleep cycle and low oxygen levels.
The symptoms associated with SDB can vary from one child to the next, but even mild SDB (mouth breathing, crowded teeth, snoring) can point to serious underlying health issues and the need for treatment.
• Pediatric sleep disorders impact a child’s behavioral, cognitive, and physical development, with long-term consequences (Bonuck, Parikh, & Bassila, 2006; Montgomery & Dunne, 2007).
• Children with SDB are 40 to 100 percent more likely to exhibit behavioral and emotional problems, including hyperactivity, anxiety, depression, social issues with peers, and conduct problems, including aggressiveness (Bonuck, 2012).
• Children with cross bites (misaligned upper and lower teeth) are 3.3 times more likely to suffer from SDB, while children with convex facial profiles (i.e. receding chins) are 2.6 times more likely (Finland Study 2013, published in European Journal of Pediatrics).
Effects of nasal vs mouth breathing:
– Facial growth & development: Air that we inhale through the nose passes through the nasal mucosa, which stimulates the reflex nerves that control breathing and help us achieve a deep sleep. Mouth breathing bypasses the nasal mucosa and makes regular breathing difficult, which can lead to snoring, breath irregularities and sleep apnea. Deep sleep is when Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is released, which is essential to a child’s brain development and long bone growth. A child with an open mouth will very likely grow into an adult with flatter facial features, less prominent cheekbones, a longer face, droopier eyes and lower facial muscle tone, a narrower palate, and even a smaller lower jaw in most cases. Check for allergies that could block the nasal airway.
– Oxygen & Sleep: When adults and children breathe through their mouths during the day, chances are very high that they also breathe through their mouths all night long as well. Mouth breathing at night, combined with an obstructed airway, are two symptoms directly connected to sleep apnea and altered levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the bloodstream. When less oxygen is able to reach the brain, learning and the ability to focus at school becomes a problem for many children. In adults, chronic fatigue, tiredness, and brain fog are common symptoms.
– Speech: When children have an open mouth, they are more likely to struggle with certain speech sounds. The most commonly associated speech problem is a lisp, or the inability to say “S” sounds correctly. Speech is affected because when you have an open mouth, you also have what we refer to as a “tongue thrust swallowing pattern.” This type of swallowing pattern causes the tongue to protrude, or push forward during speaking and swallowing. Look for signs of a tongue-tie and/or flared out teeth.
– Braces & Teeth Stability: If mouth breathing or tongue thrusting is present, the stability of the alignment of your teeth will be compromised once your braces are removed. This means you are likely to experience orthodontic relapse and you may need braces again in the future if mouth breathing persists.