While having an open mouth may seem like a silly thing to be concerned about, and even a simple problem to fix, it’s actually neither.
The Serious Health Effects of Mouth Breathing
Teeth and braces: If your mouth is open, your braces will take longer and your treatment will be much more challenging for your orthodontist. The spaces between your teeth will be more difficult to close and the stability of the alignment of your teeth will be compromised once your braces are removed. This means you are likely to experience orthodontic relapse and you may need braces again in the future.
Speech: When children have an open mouth, they are more likely to struggle with certain speech sounds. The most commonly associated speech problem is a lisp, or the inability to say “S” sounds correct. Speech is affected because when you have an open mouth, you also have what we refer to as a “tongue thrust swallowing pattern.” This type of swallowing pattern causes the tongue to protrude, or push forward during speaking and swallowing.
Facial growth and development: It’s important to realize that growth is a very powerful force. A child with an open mouth will very likely grow into an adult with flatter facial features, less prominent cheekbones, a longer face, droopier eyes and lower facial muscle tone, a narrower palate and even a smaller lower jaw in most cases. By closing the mouth and breathing through the nose, these negative growth patterns can be prevented.
Sleep and oxygen: When adults and children breathe through their mouths during the day, chances are very high that they breathe through their mouths all night long as well. Mouth breathing at night, combined with an obstructed airway, are two symptoms directly connected to sleep apnea and altered levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the bloodstream. When less oxygen is able to reach the brain, learning and the ability to focus at school becomes a problem for many children. In adults, chronic fatigue, tiredness, and brain fog are common symptoms related to these issues.
A variety of things can cause mouth breathing from airway restriction including allergies and chronic sinus infections to thumb sucking. If you have questions about any of this or suspect you or your child is consistently breathing through your mouth, schedule an appointment to talk about your options to correct this!