What is mouth breathing?

Mouth breathing (or mouth breather) refers to the act of breathing through the mouth (as a temporary backup system) if there is an obstruction to breathing through the nose, which is the designated breathing organ for the human body. Chronic mouth breathing is usually associated with illness.

Apart from the embarrassment that can arise from mouth-breathing, there are potentially serious health consequences associated with this abnormal breathing pattern.

What are the causes of mouth breathing?

Mouth breathing is usually due to a partially or fully blocked nasal pathway When an individual has a blocked nose, they might notice the following:

  • Nasal congestion and a “stuffy nose,” which can be caused by a cold, sinus infection, or allergies
  • Jaw size and shape
  • Nose size and shape
  • Enlarged tonsils, turbinates, and/or adenoids
  • A deviated septum
  • Benign tissue growths in the nose (nasal polyps) or tumor (rare)

Signs and symptoms of mouth breathing

New science is showing us that mouth breathing is something to not ignore.  The following symptoms may occur and may worsen over a person’s life:

  • Crowded teeth
  • Crooked teeth
  • Dry mouth
  • Cracked lips
  • Digestive issues
  • Bad breath
  • Tooth decay
  • Inflamed, red, and swollen gums
  • Poor sleep
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Heavy snoring
  • Morning headaches
  • Sore throat

For young children, the following may be signs:

  • Slower than normal growth rate
  • Irritability
  • Increased crying episodes at night
  • Large tonsils
  • Dry, cracked lips
  • Problems concentrating at school
  • Daytime sleepiness

Treatment for mouth breathing

There are many types of treatments which can occur but the first step is to diagnose the root of the issue.  Your speech therapist can evaluate you or your child for Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMDs) which can lead to referrals to certain specialists as well as specific treatment for the issue.

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