Breathing is about the most natural thing we do. Because we do it so automatically, most of us do not realise that there is actually a recommended way to breathe – through the nose, with the mouth closed. Mouth breathing may seem perfectly natural but if done habitually, can lead to many health problems – including those related to your dental health and wellbeing.1
Let’s take a look at how mouth breathing can adversely impact your dental health:
Tooth Decay and Gum Disease
Based on a research study published by Journal of Oral Rehabilitation, mouth breathers and those who sleep with their mouths open are more likely to develop tooth decay.2 The study authors measured pH levels in the saliva of 10 healthy participants over four days. Half of the participants wore nose clips to stimulate mouth breathing for the experiment.
According to the lead study author Joanne Choi, the average pH levels measured in the saliva of participants who wore the clips – hence forced to breathe through their mouths – dropped from 6.6 to 3.6 during the night.3 When pH levels drop below 5.5, the tooth starts to lose its minerals.3 This process of demineralisation weakens the natural protective layer of teeth thus making them more susceptible to tooth decay.
Saliva helps to neutralize acid and flush away bacteria from your teeth and gums. Since the saliva production of mouth breathers decreases at night, the dry mouth environment allows the acid-producing bacteria to thrive – giving rise to gum inflammation as well as tooth decay.2, 5
Left untreated, gum disease can lead to a host of other problems including: diabetes, dementia, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.4
As mentioned, mouth breathers increase their chances of experiencing dry mouth through the reduction of saliva production.6 Left unchecked by saliva, a dry mouth becomes a playground for foul-smelling bacteria to thrive, which in turn causes bad breath. Bypassing the nose that acts as a filter to keep out dust and bacteria, mouth breathers further expose their oral cavity to the bacteria in the environment.6 All these factors combined help to explain why mouth breathers are more prone to developing bad breath.
When a person is breathing through the mouth, the tongue tends to sit on the floor, instead of the roof of the mouth. Over time, the position of the tongue in relation to the jaws can influence the development of the person’s teeth – much the same way orthodontic braces are being applied to move one’s teeth to the desired position.6 This is why breathing with an open mouth while sleeping not only causes snoring but can, over a prolonged period, give you crowded teeth and a bad bite.4
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea
The most common reason for mouth breathing is when the nasal passage is blocked, such that the person cannot get enough air through the nose. The obstructed nasal passage is common among people who suffer from allergies, respiratory infections (flu), deviated nasal septum or have enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Mouth breathers are also more susceptible to constant snoring and a breathing disorder known as Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).7
If you’re concerned about your breathing patterns, please contact Face Value Dental on (07 3221 0677 or make an online enquiry for more information.
"The Health Risks of Being a Mouth Breather: What You Need to Know." Best Health Magazine Canada. May 15, 2017. http://www.besthealthmag.ca/best-you/oral-health/mouth-breather/.
Bachai, Sabrina. "Mouth Breathers Are More Prone To Tooth Decay." Medical Daily. February 07, 2016. http://www.medicaldaily.com/tooth-decay-mouth-breathing-brushing-teeth-help-372566.
"Mouth Breathing Negatively Affects Your Oral Health." Avery & Meadows http://www.averyandmeadows.com/dental-articles/mouth-breathing-negatively-affects-oral-health/.
"Dangers of Plaque & Gingivitis to Your Health." WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/plaque-on-teeth#1.
“What you should know about dry mouth and periodontal disease”. Neeley Dental Group. http://dallasdds.net/what-you-should-know-about-dry-mouth-and-periodontal-disease/.
"Why you should take mouth breathing seriously." TheraBreath. http://www.therabreath.com/articles/the-science-of-bad-breath/why-you-should-take-mouth-breathing-seriously-6831/.
"Attention All Mouth Breathers - 5 Important Reasons Why You Must Breathe Through Your Nose." Steven Y. Park. February 05, 2017. http://doctorstevenpark.com/attention-all-mouth-breathers-5-important-reasons-why-you-must-breathe-through-your-nose.