Chances are you’ve probably heard the term mouth breather. For whatever reason, some people use it as a derogatory term to just poke fun or sometimes even be a bully. But it’s important to know that a mouth breather does not equate to somebody being dumb or mean. It’s an actual physical symptom of a breathing disorder. It can impact you in a variety of different ways, especially your dental health.
The more you breathe out of your mouth, the drier your mouth becomes. The drier your mouth, the higher your chances are for cavities, bad breath, and gum disease. Your mouth needs plenty of saliva spit to stay healthy. Saliva flow helps to limit the accumulation of bacteria, dry tissues, and even odors. So when someone is always breathing through their mouth instead of their nose, it dries out their saliva quicker than it can replenish itself.
It’s proven that people with dry mouth are statistically more at risk for cavities and also gum disease and bad breath. In addition, mouth breathing can also make you more prone to other dental and medical conditions, such as:
- a severe open bite or an overbite due to the jaw and tongue not being in proper alignment
- an enlarged tongue, which can obstruct your airway making it difficult to breathe properly
- a small jaw
- premature tooth loss
- a deviated septum
- hay fever
- seasonal allergies
- ADD, ADHD, or difficulty concentrating
This is because the oxygen that passes through your nose is a lot more beneficial to your brain than the oxygen that passes through your mouth. So in almost all circumstances of life, you want to be breathing through your nose instead of through your mouth.
Now if you’re wondering whether you may or may not be a mouth breather, ask yourself these questions.
- Do you notice that your lips are always dry and chapped?
- Do you frequently experience dry mouth symptoms?
- Are your gums especially around your front teeth always red irritated or inflamed?
- Do you tend to struggle with bad breath?
- Does your mouth ever feel sticky or is it ever hard to swallow?
- Do you wake up in the morning with cottonmouth?
- Do you catch yourself with your mouth open for no reason?
- Have family members or roommates ever mentioned that you sleep with your mouth open?
If you said yes to any of these, let’s figure out why.
Why are you doing it typically? Most people’s mouths breathe because of some type of nasal or sinus blockage, perhaps an allergy flare-up, or they have a full-blown sinus infection and all of the drainage that goes with it. If that happens infrequently, it’s not the end of the world. People get sick with colds and stuff like that and are forced to breathe through their mouths for a few days until they get better, it happens. But if this is you every single day, you have chronic allergies or sinus issues, we got to switch something up, you got to breathe through your nose.
In addition, mouth breathing can also be attributed to oral and facial skeletal development. So when you were a kid, the lower jaw developed too small and the oral tissues are now blocking the upper airway. And also mouth breathing can occur when we sleep. Maybe you’re fine during the day, but at night your mouth opens wide, you snore, things like that. It could be due to a deviated septum or something going on with your adenoids where your airway is blocked. Or perhaps you have some type of clinical sleeping disorder.
If you do suspect any of this, schedule an appointment with your ENT to check your ear, nose, and throat, or a physician for a sleep study to check for sleep apnea. Because if your lower jaw is not positioned correctly, when you’re sleeping you may need to wear a dental fabricated mouthpiece or an oral appliance at night to correct your tongue and jaw positioning to allow you to breathe through your nose.
What else can we do to stop mouth breathing?
Depending on the cause and when you do it simply, said the quickest way to treat mouth breathing is to start training yourself to breathe through your nose. It’s easier said than done of course, especially if it’s a habit. It’s like slouching and reminding yourself to sit up straight. You have to be conscious and aware of what you’re doing at all times.
Myofunctional therapy is a buzzword in the dental world right now. Myofunctional therapy is a rapidly growing area that addresses oral function and breathing patterns. So if you want answers about your breathing advice you could benefit from seeing a myofunctional therapist. They help you with becoming more aware of your mouth posture and how air flows through your nasal passages by making sure your tongue is positioned correctly. They will also give you specific exercises and techniques on how to rest your tongue and position your mouth.
Some people will go as far as to place a small strip of tape over their own mouth. So that they can feel it tugging if they start to drop their jaw open. But of course, before you do anything like that you need to talk with your doctor, dentist, ENT, or myofunctional therapist about your mouth breathing concerns. Because if you have something like a deviated septum, if you literally can’t breathe through your nose, you will need to get that fixed before you can do any mouth taping or anything like that.
The taping is just to try to remind yourself to keep your mouth closed. It’s not going to fix your anatomically blocked nose. If your tissues physically block airflow and limit oxygen intake you need to see a professional before you try to force yourself to breathe through your nose when you can’t. I hope that makes sense
Lastly, let’s talk about three ways to prevent the negative effects of mouth breathing on your teeth.
- First, make sure you’re using fluoride every day. The fluoride will help remineralize any dry weak enamel that’s starting to develop cavities due to mouth breathing.
- Second, drink lots of water. The more water you drink, the less dry your mouth will be, and the less chance of tooth decay.
- Third and probably most importantly, if you have kids you might want to have your dentist or a myofunctional therapist assess their oral anatomy and bone development to make sure there’s optimal airflow whenever their mouth is closed. The best time to fix things is when you’re young. Certain myofunctional modifications can actually prevent the need for surgery in the future.
Please remember that mouth breathing is not normal and it causes dry mouth which puts you at a really high risk of getting tooth decay and gum disease and bad breath and all that stuff. so if you suspect this, please schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional to decide what your next steps need to be.