Mouth Breathing Impacts On Oral Health
The benefits of proper nasal breathing are endless. Breathing through the nose is optimal for overall health; and research has demonstrated that mouth breathing can impinge upon the structures of the oral cavity, which if left untreated can result in periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease (also known as gum disease), is an infection affecting the teeth and their surrounding structures. Its main contributing factor has been well documented to be bacteria in dental plaque. Improper plaque removal leads to gingivitis, which can then turn into periodontal disease, and may result in tooth loss if left untreated. Mouth breathing on the other hand also contributes greatly to the disease as it aids in making the bacteria in the oral cavity more aggressive.
When an individual resorts to mouth breathing due to any type of airway obstruction such as a deviated nasal septum, enlarged tonsils/adenoids, or even allergies to name a few; a dry mouth is observed. Having a dry mouth is one of the many side effects of mouth breathing, but most important of all is the fact that having a dry mouth will contribute to gingival inflammation (also known as gingivitis). In health and the absence of mouth breathing, bacteria in the oral cavity gets washed away with saliva. Conversely, when an individual habitually breathes through their mouth, bacteria are unable to be washed away; instead, the oral cavity turns into a breeding ground for bacteria. Bacteria can cause havoc in a dry oral environment; leading to bad breath, cavities, and inflammation of the tissues surrounding the teeth. Additionally, this oral dryness can contribute to inflammation in the oropharynx (back of the throat); which can play a role in contributing to tonsil enlargement. The real problem here is the fact that if the tonsils become enlarged, they will obstruct the airway and impede the tongue from sitting properly in the oral cavity; thus forcing the tongue forward and contributing to a tongue thrust. During a tongue thrust, the tongue moves in a forward direction every time you swallow; piercing between the anterior teeth, and creating a malocclusion (crooked teeth). This abnormal force of the tongue can further contribute to tooth loss, as the teeth will be constantly impacted by the force of the tongue. On average we swallow over one thousand times a day, and if not done adequately it can have devastating repercussions.
Addressing mouth breathing is essential, and should not be left untreated. Through the use of breathing re-education, such as the Buteyko breathing method; proper nasal breathing can be achieved.