Mouth Breathing – Problem or Not?
Breathing through the mouth day and night can certainly be a problem. In children, whose facial structure is still developing, mouth breathing can have catastrophic effects, including facial deformity and poor growth. In adults, halitosis (bad breath), gum disease and even heart disease are more likely to occur.
Nocturnal mouth breathers usually sleep poorly and often suffer from some or all of the following-
snoring, dry mouth, bad breath, hoarse throat, chronic fatigue, brain fog, poor day-time concentration, being tired and irritable, & dark circles under the eyes.
For young children, add in more crying at night, cracked lips, enlarged tonsils, slower growth, difficulty concentration at school (which may lead to a misdiagnosis of ADD or ADHD) and daytime sleepiness.
Breathing through the nose has health benefits. The nose filters the air of dust and small particles, humidifying and warming it before it reaches the lungs. This can help protect your lungs from the effects of cold dry air which may cause reflex coughing and worsen asthma, as well as preventing breathing in particles that may clog up and irritate your lungs
A blocked or partially blocked nasal passage will cause you to breathe through your mouth. There are a number of causes of a blocked nasal passage from a simple cold, allergies and hayfever, enlarged adenoids and nasal polyps, to obstructive sleep apnoea, tumours (rare) and even stress.
People are frequently unaware they are mouth breathers, so how can it be diagnosed? During a dental examination, your dentist may notice halitosis (bad breath), frequent cavities, and gum disease, or may even observe nasal polyps or enlarged tonsils. These are all signs of a mouth breather.
Because mouth breathing is very drying and decreases the amount of saliva in the mouth, bacteria can’t be washed away as effectively, and the result is bad breath, more dental caries, periodontal disease, plus ear and throat infections. On top of this, less oxygen reaches the blood causing heart failure, high blood pressure, decreased lung function and worsening of lung diseases such as asthma, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or “emphysema”) etc.
From all the above you can see that early diagnosis and treatment is very important, especially so in children, who, if not treated early, may suffer from long narrow faces, narrow mouths, gummy smiles, a large overbite and crowded teeth, periodontal disease, tooth cavities, bad breath, etc, as well as the consequences of poor sleep leading to poor growth and academic performance, etc as mentioned earlier.
Treatment is aimed at opening the nasal passage to make nasal breathing possible. This may be as simple as a saline nasal spray, a steroidal nasal spray or an antihistamine. (Note that nasal decongestant sprays are not recommended for more than 3 days in a row due to the possibility of rebound congestion and irreversible scarring in the nasal passage if used for extended periods.) Surgery may be required in the case of nasal polyps, or enlarged adenoids and tonsils, etc. For obstructive sleep apnoea, a CPAC machine may be prescribed.
Preventative measures may include saline nasal sprays and douches to wash allergens and dust out of nasal passages, keeping the house dust and allergen free (damp mopping, no animal dander, mattress and pillow protectors that block out dust mites, etc), cleaning air filters on air conditioners, and consciously practicing breathing through the nose.
Ask your qualified dentist at Moss Vale Dental when you have your next check-up if you have any concerns.