When it comes to oral hygiene, brushing and flossing are the first things that come to mind for most people. But another big part of keeping a clean and healthy mouth is avoiding certain harmful habits! Believe it or not, one of these habits is breathing through your mouth; and while it might sound harmless, this tendency is actually linked to some serious oral health concerns. Keep reading to learn more from your dentist about how mouth-breathing can negatively impact your dental health, along with some tips for preventing it from happening in the first place.
How Does Mouth-Breathing Impact My Dental Health?
Under normal circumstances, we breathe through our noses—but sometimes things happen that facilitate the need for us to breathe through our mouths. But mouth-breathing is generally considered an emergency backup option that’s utilized when there’s a problem with the nose, bite misalignment that makes closing the mouth difficult, or anything else than can affect respiration.
Mouth-breathing can severely impact your dental health in many ways, some of which might not seem obvious at first. In the short term, the habit can lead to a variety of issues including:
- Dry mouth – This is perhaps the biggest problem resulting from mouth-breathing; if your mouth is dry, it can’t produce as much saliva. And saliva is the mouth’s first line of defense against cavity-causing bacteria.
- Fatigue – Getting less oxygen by breathing through the mouth will result in poorer sleep quality and lower overall energy levels.
The habit can also lead to some potentially life-altering problems including:
- Sleep apnea – The risk of sleep apnea increases with mouth-breathing, and sleep apnea can lead to a plethora of problems that are detrimental to both your oral and overall health.
- Change in facial structure – Mouth-breathing can encourage your facial bones to develop differently, ultimately yielding flatter features, drooping eyes, a smaller chin, and a narrower jaw and dental arch.
- The need for orthodontic treatment – The narrowed dental arch of a chronic mouth-breather rarely has enough room for the full set of adult teeth, meaning orthodontia will likely be needed to correct the issue. Other issues caused by mouth-breathing include crooked teeth, gummy smiles, and jaw pain.
Tips for Preventing Mouth-Breathing
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to better-regulate your breathing patterns and in turn, help safeguard your oral health. Consider the following tips:
- Treat your stuffy nose – If allergies or a cold is causing congestion in your nose and forcing you to breathe through your mouth, consider taking cold/allergy medication or using a saline spray to clear things out. Once your nose is cleared out, use it as your primary means of breathing!
- Change your sleeping position – If you sleep on your back, try to keep your head elevated to open your nasal passages.
- Maintain a clean environment – Sometimes dust, pet hair, or other allergens can cause congestion; keeping things tidy and changing your air filters can make a considerable difference.
Even though something as simple as breathing through your mouth might seem harmless, it can actually have some pretty serious ramifications for your dental health! That said, being mindful of the potential dangers of the habit and taking steps to actively avoid it will go a long way towards protecting your smile.
About the Author
A native Texan herself, Dr. Sheri McIntosh has proudly served patients and families in the North Texas area for several years. Dr. McIntosh received her dental doctorate from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and is an active member of several professional organizations including the American Dental Association and the Academy of General Dentistry. Her practice is pleased to offer a wide range of available services including preventive, cosmetic, restorative options and more. To schedule a visit, feel free to contact Dr. McIntosh through her practice’s website or over the phone: (817) 337-8300.