Breathing through the mouth, rather than the nose, can be accompanied by unpleasant symptoms.
Although mouth breathing occurs for a variety of reasons in adults and children, the culprit is usually nasal obstruction. When we breathe normally through the nose, the air we breathe is warmed and moistened before it reaches our lungs. However, if a person has difficulty breathing through the nose, he is forced to breathe dry, cold air through the mouth.
Basically an improper form of breathing, a person may breathe with a number of reasons. "Some children do it out of habit," Dr. Veronique Benhamou, director of periodontology at McGill University in Montreal. "Their bites may be inactive, or the position of their jaws and teeth may be so that when they sleep, their lips are not close enough." A child may also suffer from large tonsils that are not normal, which can inhibit breathing.
Harry Hoediono, president of the Ontario Dental Association, said mouth breathing can also occur as a result of birth defects, such as distorted septum, which might make it more difficult to breathe through the nose. "It could even be an abnormal bone deformity, but it makes it easier for someone to breathe if they lean forward and breathe through their mouths," he explained.
Hoediono also said that some people, especially older people, can become sedatives because of taking medicine, a condition called xerostomia. "In this case, drought can be painful. It can feel like a burning mouth, "he said. Mouth breathing can also occur after the gland is damaged during chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
One of the most common side effects of mouth breathing is a mouth that is too dry. Under normal conditions, saliva continues to wash bacteria from the mouth. However, if your mouth is dry, the bacteria can be more ready to hold and cause problems such as cavities. "That's because dry membranes are easier to attack," Dr. Hoediono.
In children, oral breathing can also cause permanent bone deformities. That's because it promotes the growth of the upper jaw, not the lower jaw. "The result is a large overbite and gummy smile."
Hoediono said that mouth breathing can also cause difficulty sleeping, causing people to wake up at night if they don't get enough oxygen. In children, lack of sleep can reduce their ability to pay attention and concentrate in school, which may be mistaken for attention deficit disorder. In adults, mouth breathing can be associated with sleep apnea, which causes people to wake up often at night. "You can feel tired the next day," Dr. Hoediono.
Benhamou said that although natural mouth breathing might be able to prevent dryness by cleaning the mouth throughout the day, it would dry overnight. "Because you breathe through your mouth all night, you dry out soft tissue," he explained. Mouth breathing often has chronic red and inflamed gums, even if their oral health is good. Adults may also find they have bleeding gums, or they may often have holes.
Hoediono says another sign is if the back of your throat feels dry and itchy when you wake up, or there is a burning sensation. "When you wake up, place one finger on one of the nostrils and try to breathe while keeping your mouth closed, and then try on the other side. Difficulty in breathing can indicate problems with nasal passages. "
Because it's so dry, mouth breathing can also cause chronic bad breath. "People tell me that they are constantly brushing their teeth or chewing gum, but bad breath is still there," Dr. Hoediono. This is why your gums are receding.
Benhamou said it's important to determine why mouth breathing occurs before you can fix it. "If the cause is very large tonsils, then removing it might be an option," he said. If the problem is structural and a child cannot, for example, close his lips over a dilated front tooth, then the solution might be orthodontic treatment.
Using a moisturizer during sleep can help reduce dryness in the mouth, as well as replenishing it with plenty of fluids. Benhamou sometimes advises patients to apply a little vitamin E oil to their gums before going to sleep so they don't dry overnight.
Hoediono said a thorough dental examination will help determine whether mouth breathing is problem. It is also important for parents to look for signs of mouth breathing in children, so that the problem can be corrected before it gets worse. "I have a mother who brings children," he recalls. "He has dry gums, dry mouth, overbite, and a blockage in the nasal passages," classic sigh. I referred him to the doctor and they sent him for surgery. They removed the nasal obstruction, and before long, he felt better and better in school! "