Mouth breathing

Girl with orthodontic issues due to mouth breathing

The natural and optimal way for humans at rest to breathe is through the nose, not the mouth.

  • The nasal passages filter the air better for toxins and the mucous lining kills microbes.
  • The smaller diameter of the nasal passage results in an air pressure difference that enables the lungs to extract more oxygen from the air.
  • Nasal breathing produces nitric oxide, which also assists with oxygen extraction, is vital to all body organs and is a vasodilator, keeping the blood vessels open and the blood flowing
  • Breathing through the nose also makes us slow down, and in turn that helps reduce hypertension and stress.

Mouth breathing just doesn’t do the job the body requires!

More than that, it’s actually harmful. It results in:

  • over-breathing
  • reduced blood circulation
  • less oxygenation of vital organs
  • narrowing of the airways
  • and worsens conditions such as asthma, allergies and sleep apnoea.

As well as obvious oral effects such as gum disease, gingivitis, sore throat and bad breath, it can causes a wide range of other issues, from  headaches to digestive disturbances. Perhaps the most significant is that mouth breathing disturbs sleep – and that has a significant effect on the health generally and our ability to engage with life.

What triggers mouth breathing?

Mouth breathing becomes a habit, often caused by

  • respiratory infections
  • chronic nasal congestion
  • allergies
  • enlarged tonsils and adenoids
  • in children – excessive thumb or finger sucking
  • changes the microflora of the mouth, allowing overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria and increased “stickiness” of plaque, leading to increased risk of dental decay and gum disease.

The effect of mouth breathing in children

Diminished mental capacity

Diminished oxygen has a knock-on effect on our capacity to focus, made worse by poor sleep. This is particularly poignant for children, whose growth, health, behaviour and learning are affected at a critical time.

The effect on facial structures

Mouth breathing in children results in a long face with a narrow upper jaw, crowded teeth and a ‘weak’ chin. This happens because the tongue is supposed to rest on the palate, supporting the upper arch. In mouth breathing the tongue drops and the arch collapses.

The following are some of the symptoms that may be experienced by a child who is not breathing correctly:

  • dark translucent areas under the eyes
  • behavioural problems
  • inability to focus in class
  • bed wetting after the age of 6
  • feeling tired and easily falling asleep during the day
  • snoring, teeth grinding and night sweats.

More resources about mouth breathing

Child mouth breathing

What causes mouth-breathing and why does it matter?
The causes of mouth-breathing in adults and children

Mouth breathing

Mouth breathing in children
The adverse effects on facial growth, health, learning and behaviour.

Young girl sucking her thumb

How some childhood habits can affect facial beauty
The perils of thumb-sucking and other habits

Potential misdiagnosis

Sadly, the symptoms of behavioural problems are similar to those of ADHD and may be misdiagnosed. This video by the American Academy of Physiological Medicine & Dentistry (AAPMD) may be helpful to understand the effect of dysfunctional breathing and misdiagnosis.

Treatment for mouth breathing

For both adults and children, mouth breathing is not ‘okay’ – it needs to be attended to.

Over time, a combination of treatments can restore proper breathing. Typically:

Our dentists are experienced in using orthodontics to reverse the facial effects of mouth breathing, and we work closely with breathing retraining and other practitioners as needed. 

Call us at Lotus Dental in Sydney on 02 9953 5153 or send us an email to make an appointment. We’ll discuss and diagnose the cause of the problem and identify appropriate treatment options for you or your child.