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Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The Problem with Mouth Breathing

Dr. Vincent Wan


Most people comfortably breathe through their nose.  Some people find it necessary or easier to breath with their mouth.  However, the mouth is not meant for breathing.  As mouth breathing is not the body’s most natural way to receive oxygen, there may be some negative dental consequences.

Someone who mouth breathes will often have their mouth always in a slightly or very open state.  Always posturing the lower jaw in these positions to get more air can be traumatic to the jaw.  Poor jaw position can lead to jaw and jaw joint pain.

You may develop an irregular bite which may need correcting with orthodontic treatment, such as orthodontic aligners.  You may clench or grind your teeth together because your jaw is not in its most natural position and need an occlusal splint to protect the teeth, jaw joints and muscles from damage.  There is a higher risk of snoring and sleep apnoea and the need for a mandibular advancement splint to help open the airway.

Always having the mouth open will dry out the mouth.  Having little saliva can lead to a higher risk of dental problems such as tooth decay, gum disease and other oral infections.  Saliva is anti-bacterial, buffers acid and replaces mineral in the teeth so having a dry mouth causes loss of these protective mechanisms.  Having a dry mouth can also lead to bad breath and changes in taste.

There are cases that develop speech issues from the open mouth position.  The most common problem is a lisp when trying to pronounce “s” sounds.  “S” sounds are often slurred so they sound like “th” sounds.  Some people develop a hoarse voice due to the dryness of the throat and find it more difficult to talk clearly.  You may find it more difficult to swallow due to the dryness as well.