With most studies reporting the prevalence of mouth breathing at 50-56%, mouth breathing seems to have been normalized. Mouth Breathing Awareness Month serves a gentle reminder of two things: (1) nasal breathing should be 24/7 and (2) although mouth breathing is common, it’s not normal.
In the long term, mouth breathing can cause a cascade of unfortunate events, including downward facial growth (also known as “long face syndrome”), a gummy smile, and a narrow upper jaw. A narrow upper jaw means a smaller airway and an increased risk for developing obstructive sleep apnea.
When the tongue drops down and your jaw hinges open, your head usually comes forward and there is straining in the facial muscles. This dysfunctional use of the TMJ can cause pain and changes in your bite. Other dental concerns with mouth breathing include reduced salivary flow, increased tooth decay (dental caries), increased risk for gum disease risk, increased gingival inflammation, chapped lips, oral pH (and microflora) changes, and bad breath (halitosis).
A low, forward oral rest posture has also been associated with tongue thrust swallowing, fast/messy/picky eating, and acid reflux. Acid reflux can be related to swallowing too much air.
Nasal breathing produces nitric oxide, which has many health benefits. The nose also warms & filters the air we breathe; our mouths cannot. Mouth breathing can aggravate allergies and inflame the tonsils. Inflamed tonsils and allergies can worsen the mouth breathing, and the cycle continues.
Are you a mouth breather, or do you know someone who is? Whoever it is may benefit from an appointment with an Ear Nose and Throat doctor and consultation with a myofunctional therapist.