Mouth breathing refers to the act of breathing through the mouth instead of the nose. Mouth breathing is generally a result of an obstruction to the nose, making it difficult to intake air. Chronic mouth breathing may be associated with several illnesses. Risk factors of a blocked nose include Nasal congestion and a “stuffy nose,” which can be caused by a cold, sinus infection, allergies, jaw size, and shape.
In children, mouth breathing can cause crooked teeth, facial deformities, poor growth, Behavioral and social issues. In adults, chronic mouth breathing can cause bad breath, gum disease, and sleep apnea.
If you have been searching for some answers about mouth breathing, I am here to help. My name is Sheree Wertz, and I am a myofunctional therapist.
Most people don’t actually know what myofunctional therapy is! It may sound kind of strange, but mouth breathing is actually a symptom that most of my patients have, so I’m asked questions about it every day, and I figured if I talk about it and it helps a few people, then it would be worth it.
Mouth breathing is when you inhale and exhale through your mouth rather than your nose. Even though we can, we should not. Breathing through the nose is the proper way to breathe because it warms up the nasal passages and moistens the air you take in.
Mouth breathing dries out the mouth, which can eventually cause cavities and gum disease. Most people do not realize they mouth breathe because it usually happens while sleeping.
Mouth breathing at night typically occurs when sleeping on your back. When you sleep on your back, you’re forced to take heavier breaths through your mouth.
A mouth breather carries the tongue in a low downward position, creating airspace which allows the person to breathe more freely.
If you are mouth breathing, you get 18% less oxygen to your brain.
Nasal breathing, rather than mouth breathing, is better for both your oral and general health. This is because your nose produces nitric oxide, which improves the lungs’ ability to absorb oxygen.
Nitric oxide also provides antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, and antiparasitic properties. Boosting your immune system and making it easier for you to fight off infections.
The nose is essentially a filtering system and air humidifier for the air we breathe in and out. Using CO2 and nitric oxide, nasal breathing helps us deliver more oxygen to our brain and body, helping with overall performance and contributing to our psychological well-being.
Breathing through the mouth does not allow us the same benefits as nasal breathing. C02 is blown off, and the nitric oxide produced in the nose is not utilized. Oxygen is not efficiently delivered to the brain and body, leading to a lack of overall performance and overall mood issues. An open mouth posture can lead to issues with facial and dental development and health.
Some of the negatives of mouth breathing are as follows:
- Forward head posture, Low tongue posture
- Dry mouth, bad breath, more cavities, and gingivitis
- Interpreted and/or poor sleep
- Dehydration of upper airway leading to increased risk of asthma
- Increases risk of respiratory infections (colds, flu, etc.)
- Inefficient Oxygen delivery to tissues leading toward hyperventilation
- Decreased overall performance (sports, sex, speaking, etc.)
- Increased risk of bedwetting, Snoring, Sleep Apnea, ADHD, behavioral disorders
- Poor attention and memory
- The tendency towards abnormal facial development
- Increased risk of Migraines, TMJ, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, etc.
Let’s start with a quick self-exam that I have made and see if any of these questions apply to you or your child’s mouth breathing.
Do you breathe more through your nose or more through your mouth?
Let’s find out.
Is your mouth open?
Just because you did not technically breathe through your mouth does not mean you’re in the clear. If your mouth rests in an open position, you will still experience the same symptoms as an actual mouth breather in adults; an open mouth posture is much harder to detect and in children. It is usually pronounced in young children, and as we get older, social stigmas help us realize that it is better to have a closed mouth. The problem is that most adults who have learned to keep their mouth mostly closed do not realize they still have all of the same mouth breathing symptoms; try to catch yourself or your child with their mouth open to see if this is a habit that they have formed. It is most obvious during a period of distraction or focus, such as watching TV or listening.
Where is your tongue?
It may take a little practice to figure out where your tongue rests when it is inside your mouth. Any person who has an open mouth posture or has a mouth breather always has a low resting tongue and a tongue thrust. The symptoms are the same when you first think about the tip of your tongue. Is it touching your upper front teeth, your lower front teeth? Is it between your teeth, or is it below your bottom teeth?
Try to figure this out. Then think about the middle of your tongue. Is it touching the roof of your mouth, or is it lying low? The correct position should be at the top of your mouth, with the tip of your tongue touching near the upper gum line and the body of your tongue, filling your palate.
Any sucking habits?
Suppose you’re watching/ listening to this as a parent. Does your child currently have a thumb sucking, finger sucking, binky habit, or did they have this habit, but they have now quit? If your child had a pacifier sucking habit past the age of three or a thumb or finger sucking habit past five, they’re much more likely to experience negative effects related to their mode of breathing. If you’re an adult yourself, think back to your own childhood and see if any of that information about sucking habits applies to you. I just saw a gentleman that still sucks his thumb at the age of 45. So do not be ashamed; a habit is sometimes hard to break no matter what age.
How is your airway?
This is a topic that can be related to current or past health conditions. If you are an adult, an airway problem from your childhood may still affect you now… even if you don’t remember it. Do you have asthma, allergies, large tonsils or have you had them removed?
Do you experience nasal congestion for any reason at all, or have you in the past? If you are a parent, does your child constantly have a stuffy or runny nose? Anything from allergies, colds, sinus trouble, a deviated septum, or even asthma can make breathing more difficult? Anything that makes breathing a struggle can lead to mouth breathing and an open mouth resting posture because these habits are formed as the body adapts to a difficult breathing environment.
Now that I’ve told you about some of the things that can lead to mouth breathing, you need to know why mouth breathing matters and what you can do about it.
The first thing is to realize that an open mouth creates an imbalance between the lips and the tongue; the lips rest open, they do not touch or form a seal. When the lips are open, the tongue rests forward inside the mouth. (In the picture shown here, all of these children were sent to me by their orthodontist. Only for youtube )
You can see the spacing between their teeth and between the upper and lower teeth. These gaps are much more difficult for the orthodontist to close when the mouth is open, and the tongue is forward; orthodontists send these children to me before they put braces on. So, so that the results will be better. The teeth will move faster, and the result will be more stable.
The teeth move much slower when the mouth is open, and this makes your child’s time and braces last much longer than they should. In these pictures, the teeth all belong to adults, these adults had braces as children, and now their teeth have moved this time before they have braces again; they need to fix the problems caused by their open mouth posture and their tongue thrust.
The orthodontist sent them to me to help them change their habits, and their teeth would stay straight this time. Besides affecting braces, a speech problem can be complicated by mouth breathing. When children have an open mouth posture, it changes the tongue muscles’ position and functioning.
This can interfere with speech sounds and is most commonly heard as a list of children with speech problems can benefit tremendously by learning to keep their lips together, and mouth closed, certain letters such as T D and L can be difficult to pronounce because they require precise muscle control and tongue placement that a child with low facial muscle tone may not have other related speech issues may include a general lack of clarity while speaking mumbling and voice projection.
One of the most noticeable problems caused by an open mouth is its effect on the growth of our facial structures.
As children grow, the bones of their faces are actually quite malleable and can be influenced easily by outside sources such as braces, and open mouth is quite similar. For example, if a child’s mouth is open for the first eight years of their life. How could this not affect the development of the jaws, cheekbones, and other dental and facial structures?
The adult patients I work with are the ones who noticed this the most. They point out that they have longer faces, less prominent cheekbones and jawlines, and a droopy or apparent appearance around their eyes and mouth. It may sound crazy, but many studies indicate this to be true, and I see it daily in my own practice. Luckily for children. These unwanted growth patterns can be prevented and changed as long as their mouth breathing habit is changed before they stopped growing; even in adults, they can experience slight changes to their facial and dental structures as they learn to keep their mouth closed and breathe through their nose.
A myo functional therapist can give you various exercises and other resources to help both children and adults retrain habits to achieve the ultimate goal of nasal breathing. Intervening early can help avoid many dental, sleep, orthodontic, and overall health issues.
Okay, so what can you do now? First of all, start to become aware of the symptoms that we talked about and start noticing if your child’s mouth or your own mouth is open when you’re not paying attention. You can also do your best to try to change these habits on your own. But if you’re looking for someone to help or you would like to ask them questions about your own condition, you can always feel free to contact me.
I’m now offering free evaluations, and I’m very excited that we have the technology to enable me to reach more people.
Don’t hesitate to contact me to set up an evaluation; use the link at the top of this page. If you live in the Chicagoland area and want to come and visit me in person, you can come into my office; if you prefer, you can always call me directly at 815- 922-1288; leave a message, I will get back to you.
Thank you so so much for taking the time to watch my video. I hope it helped you get some clarity about your own health issues or that you’ll now be armed to help your children with the health issues that they’re experiencing.
A healthy mouth is a healthy body and a healthy life!
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