SAN ANTONIO, TX – The term “mouth breather” has become a derogatory insult in today’s pop culture, but there is nothing humorous about the real dangers of oral breathing, warns veteran San Antonio cosmetic Dentist Edward Camacho.
Mouth breathing – as opposed to nasal breathing – can have a severe impact on the healthy growth and alignment of teeth and the physical shape of the face, can decrease the body’s supply of oxygen, and mimic the signs of ADHD, leading to misdiagnoses, Dr. Camacho said.
According to a recent research paper by Yosh Jefferson, DMD, MAGD, upper airway obstruction – or mouth breathing – can negatively affect facial appearance as well as health. The possible results of untreated mouth breathing include:
- The development of long, narrow faces and mouths
- Deformities of the palate.
- Dental malocclusion – or misaligned teeth – including severe tooth crowding in the narrowed jaws.
- Gummy smiles.
- Unattractive facial features, with severe over- or underbites.
- Obstructed airways that cause a lack of sleep.
- Potential sleep apnea.
“These children do not sleep well at night due to obstructed airways; this lack of sleep can adversely affect their growth and academic performance,” Dr. Jefferson reported. “Many of these children are misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and hyperactivity.”
In children, the most commonly diagnosed behavior disorder is ADHD. According to Jefferson, though, many of these diagnoses are wrong, and are really the fallout of mouth breathing.
One of the leading problems with mouth-breathing is that it short-circuits a crucial function of the nasal passages. During nasal respiration, nitric oxide is inhaled. This gas – which is produced in the sinuses – helps the body use oxygen, improving the lungs’ ability to absorb oxygen, and increasing blood oxygen. Nitric oxide is also helps blood vessels and the heart, and other smooth muscles.
Dr. Camacho said most parents and health professionals are unaware of the serious effects of mouth-breathing, and urged all caretakers to screen for the signs of potential sleep problems. Dr. Jefferson suggested caregivers to be alert to the following alert signals in children:
- Long-narrow faces among older children and adolescents (this may not be observed in younger children because any abnormal facial growth is not evident yet)
- Enlarged adenoids causing pinched nostrils, open mouth, short upper lip and darker circles under the eyes (allergic shiners)
- Narrow, high-vaulted palate and crowded teeth.
- Swollen tonsils
- Children small and thin for their age
- Snoring and sleeping with mouth open
- Children who are out of breath during sports
- Children who are tired, irritable, and unable to concentrate or perform in school
- Children with behavior problems
As the most-likely health professionals to see children at an early age, pediatricians and dentists are best positioned to screen children for potential problems; early diagnosis helps ensure successful treatment. It’s suggested that these professionals work with an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist for further evaluation. In some cases, surgically removing adenoids and tonsils can improve many of the symptoms caused by mouth breathing.
In more severe cases dentists who specialize in correcting facial and dental abnormalities, can treat the patient with special equipment.
“There is an increasing amount of research pointing to the problems caused by mouth breathing,” Dr. Camacho said. “It’s important that parents and health care providers are informed about this issue, to save their children from a range of possible health and social problems, and to begin treatment as soon as possible.”
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Cosmetic Dentistry of San Antonio is a full-service cosmetic dental practice, specializing in Invisalign clear braces, top-quality dental veneers, dental crowns, dental bridges, teeth whitening and traditional orthodontics, as well as a full line of restorative procedures and preventative care.
16535 Huebner (at Bitters) Suite 102
Valencia Village Shopping Center
San Antonio, Texas 78248