Mouth-breathing isn’t too big of a deal, sans the social stigma and discomfort attached. But it could impact your teeth.
While this may sound a little far-fetched, it might be more plausible than you think. When we breathe through our mouths, we run the risk of drying out the linings and tissues along with it. This changes our mouth’s natural ecosystem and makes us more susceptible to all kinds of diseases and decay. But aside from this, there’s another frightening prospect to consider—mouth-breathing might be causing your crooked teeth.
An understanding of how one’s bones—particularly those around the mouth—develop can shed light on the relationship between mouth-breathing and your teeth. Mahony and Price note in Mouth Breathing, Malocclusion and the restoration of nasal breathing that most orthodontic professionals understand “the impact mouth breathing has on the development of the maxilla,” or the upper jawbone. Grippaudo, Paolantonio, Antonini, Saulle, La Torre, and Deli expounded on this further in their article for the ACTA Otorhinolaryngologica Italica, the official journal of the Italian Society of Head and Neck Surgery.
But what is it about mouth-breathing that makes it so harmful for your teeth? Let’s look into it further.
Mouth-breathing could impact your facial structure
When someone breathes through their mouth, it’s often due to an obstruction of the upper airways. If you have trouble breathing through your nose, you’ll most likely resort to breathing through your mouth.
According to Grippaudo et al., the most common causes are allergic rhinitis and adenotonsillar hypertrophy (the enlargement of the tonsils and adenoids). Mahony and Price add that constant exposure to various stressors could overload the nose with air, which signals the body to switch to the mouth for respiration.
While mouth-breathing can be useful in these cases, over time, it could hamper the muscles that help develop the nasal cavity. This, in turn, impacts the facial structure accordingly.
Research on malocclusion (misaligned teeth) notes that one of its leading causes is the size of one’s mouth. When malocclusion occurs, usually the mouth is too small to accommodate all the teeth, which causes them to crowd. This is usually the case with mouth-breathers. For de Oliveira, Carvalho, Sutra, Bezerra, and de Toledo, the typical facial structure of mouth-breathing children aged 6-14 had the following attributes, all of which set the stage for misaligned teeth:
• Predominantly vertical craniofacial growth.
• Increased jaw angle
• Narrow facial dimensions
• Hypo-development of the upper jaw bones
• Narrow or inclined nostrils
• Microrhinia with a smaller space in the nasal cavity
• Deviated septum
What can you do about it?
Fortunately, if you or your child are susceptible to mouth-breathing and worry about how it might impact your overall health, the damage isn’t permanent. Mahony and Price note that the first step is to restore nasal breathing, usually by pinpointing and remedying the cause of nasal blockage. This prevents relapse and decreases the risk of further malocclusion.
A visit to the orthodontist could also help stop further misalignment, particularly for young patients. Whether that means getting braces or undergoing jaw therapy, these measures bring the teeth back on track while bringing back nasal breathing. The most important thing, however, is to restore functional breathing patterns to prevent further incidence.
The bottom line is, the sooner you breathe through your nose, the better off you’ll be. That, and you just might get a good night’s sleep in the process.