Mouth Breathing vs. Nose Breathing and Orthodontics
Updated: Nov 16, 2022
It is normal and healthy to breathe through the nose. On the other hand, it is abnormal and may be unhealthy to be forced to breathe through the mouth most of the time. When breathing through our nose, the mouth is closed and the tongue is resting against the roof of the mouth and upper teeth (dental arches). Air rushing in and out of the nose ventilates the nasal sinuses and keeps these cavities healthy by allowing them to grow and expand normally. The tongue creates just enough outward pressure on the upper teeth to counter the pressure created by the cheeks or lips in the opposite direction. The floor of the nose and the nasal sinuses are nothing but the other side of the roof of the mouth, better known as the palate.
Mouth breathers cannot sustain the dynamics explained above. Instead, these forces are acting in reverse: The mouth is open 23½ hours a day (to allow breathing), the sinuses are clogged up, the tongue is resting on the bottom teeth only, and the cheeks are pushing the upper teeth inwards with nothing to oppose them from the other side. Mouth breathing can cause the lips and gums to dry up and become more susceptible to infection and bleeding. It can contribute to bad breath or even ear infections.
Among the reasons for restricted free passage of air through the nose are nasal allergies, large tonsils and/or large adenoids. Sometimes it may be that this airway is narrow due to insufficient development. The air that ventilates our nasal sinuses and their drainage is through the nasal airway. Therefore, it is very important to address the cause of mouth breathing by correcting the nasal passages and/or the palate, the latter being through dentofacial orthopedics. This is part of what a well-trained orthodontist does. One way they do this is through “palatal expansion.” Orthodontists have been successfully performing this procedure for over 150 years. When indicated, patients who have it done experience a remarkable ease of breathing through their noses.