It’s only quite recently that research has focused on the outcomes of breathing through the mouth (oral breathing), rather than the more natural way of breathing through the nose.
Indications are that this practice can have quite serious outcomes on bodily processes as a whole as well as on the teeth.
The 2 main effects of oral breathing
- It leads to poor development of the bite and crowding of the teeth.
- It has an important effect on brain activity, particularly in children.
Why breathing through the mouth has negative effects
The role of the muscles in the upper jaw
The upper jaw will only grow properly if the muscles around it are working normally. The three large muscles that take part in the jaw’s formation are the tongue, which works from the inside, and the two buccal muscles that work in opposite directions and balance the tongue’s influence. The lower jaw however is influenced by genetics.What that means is that the lower jaw’s growth is basically predetermined by the individual’s genetic inheritance while the growth of the upper jaw is influenced by the way that individual breathes. Abnormal breathing can upset the balance in development between the two jaws and the possibility of a very elongated face.Air passing through the nose has other important roles to play. One of these is clearing away potential pathogens such as viruses and bacteria that can enter the body on dust in the air. This air is at the same time enriched with nitric oxide. This is released in the maxillary sinuses which lie inside the nasal passages. Nitric oxide controls the gas exchange that takes place in the lungs. If nitric oxide is present, it increases oxygen uptake inside the lungs and so enriches the blood with oxygen. The first place which is likely to be affected by a lack of nitric oxide caused by oral breathing is the brain, as it is more responsive to changes in the saturation of the oxygen in the blood.
Why oral breathing develops and how it affects a child’s physical and emotional development
Research has recently shown that there is a clear connection between sleep disorders, performance at school, behavioural issues and oral breathing. But if oral breathing is so bad, why do people develop the habit in the first place? Most research points to the effect of the presence of enlarged glands, like the tonsils and adenoids at the back of the mouth. When these glands become too large, especially during early childhood, it encourages the child to breathe through the mouth rather than the nose. The best solution is for these glands to be removed as early as possible before oral breathing becomes an irreversible habit.
Enlargement of these glands tends to naturally regress in the teenage years, but by then the habit of oral breathing may have become entrenched.