What’s the big deal about mouth breathing?

This is the mouth of an adult who was a mouth breather as a child.

This is the mouth of an adult who was a mouth breather as a child.

In a previous blog post, we have written about how breathing through the mouth as a child can cause crooked teeth, collapsed bites, headaches, neck aches, ear problems like tinnitus, dizziness, vertigo and the feeling of being stopped up as one becomes an adult.

This adult was a mouth breather who held his tongue forward during development. Now the front teeth cannot touch.

This adult was a mouth breather who held his tongue forward during development. Now the front teeth cannot touch.

The two pictures are of adults that have bite problems because of  being mouth breathers all their lives. Mouth breathing is one of the most dangerous and misdiagnosed conditions that exist today.

How could mouth breathing cause all these problems?

The tongue is the most powerful muscle in the body. It is supposed to rest on the roof of the mouth, giving it a U shape. As the child grows, the tongue continues its molding effect in either a positive or negative way. If one can’t breathe through the nose, the mouth opens and the tongue goes down and forward, molding the teeth and bone with its constant pushing, creating a V shape.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, and the two above speak volumes. Looking at misshaped mouths like these is like looking at a crime scene. Look how large the tongue is in the first picture. It appears unlevel with the right side being lower and fatter than the left. Notice how the lower teeth follow its contour?  An analogy of a bite like this is like having a right leg be four inches longer than the left. Uneven legs make it hard to walk and uneven teeth really cause problems in the head, neck and ears.

The second picture is an example of a tongue thruster. Instead of the tongue going to the roof of the mouth, it pushes forward and the upper jaw is molded around it. People with this condition can only bite on the very back teeth; it’s like only being able to walk on your heels. Over time, something has to give.

How can you recognize a child mouth breather?

As a parent, grandparent, teacher or guardian, you really already know if the child you are responsible for has breathing problems. What you may not know is how devastating this problem can be for a lifetime. The purpose of this article is to give you more insight and why and how the condition can be so harmful.

Child mouth breathers have the following symptoms:

  • The roof of the mouth is very high and V shaped instead of the normal U shape.
  • Crooked teeth.
  • The upper and lower jaw do not come together correctly.
  • The upper jaw is too small.
  • The front teeth often do not meet.
  • Enlarged tonsils (if you can see them by looking at the back of the throat…they are enlarged!

In the face one can see:

  • Shiners under the eyes (Dark, discolored circles under the eyes)
  • The bones in the mid face are underdeveloped.
  • Lower jaw is under developed making it look like they have no chin.
  • An underdeveloped chin makes the nose look longer(not a good look)
  • The child may also have multiple ear infections, draining of Eustachian tubes, night grinding and restless sleep.

Preventive steps

The critical age of preventing the ravaging effects of mouth breathing is no later than nine years of age. Past nine, it is harder for the bone to be able to remold itself to the correct position. If your young loved one has the above problem, please take this article and discuss it with your dentist, board certified orthodontist and ENT specialist. It only makes sense that the dental and medical profession work together on this issue.

Andrea Stevens is a cosmetic and family dentist in practice in Kanata, Ontario.  If you have dental questions, you can call her at 613-271-7091 or visit her at kanatacosmeticdentist.com Please also feel free to leave comments or questions below, and Dr. Stevens will be happy to answer!