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300 Wellington Street East, Aurora, ON L4G 1J5 I (905) 727-7043

Are You a Mouth Breather?

June 10, 2015

This blog has covered many a wacky topic in its time, but even I didn’t see this subject coming: it may sound like a weird one, but did you know that mouth breathing is one of the most common causes of bite problems in children and adults?

“But Pasha, you have to breathe. That’s the way this whole being alive thing works.”

Fair point. I’m not saying, “No breathing!” because that would be creepy and weird. What I am saying is that breathing almost exclusively through your mouth can be harmful.

Causes of Mouth Breathing

When I say mouth breathing, I mean the subconscious intake of breath almost solely through the mouth. Okay, breathing is a subconscious process, (unless it’s me playing basketball, in which case it’s a very conscious and immediate series of desperate gasps at life-giving oxygen) but you know what I mean. Mouth breathing is caused by anything that obstructs your airways- things like enlarged tonsils, adenoids, and a deviated septum- and makes it difficult to breathe through the nose.

Breathing through your mouth isn’t really a problem if you can, and do, also breathe through your nose. Depending on their severity the above conditions can force you to breathe only through your mouth. When this is the case you can run into problems. The biggest issue is that most people don’t notice their mouth breathing, or may not recognize it as anything unusual.

What Mouth Breathing Causes

Bite Problems

As you grow, your upper jaw takes shape based on the inward forces of your cheek and lip muscles acting against the outward forces of your tongue when your mouth is closed. This synergy should create a perfectly round upper jaw, as seen in the below image on the left. When you only breathe through your mouth, the tongue doesn’t touch the roof of your mouth. Without force from your tongue to oppose the inward pressure of the cheek and lip muscles, the upper jaw forms a V-shaped narrow angle as seen below on the left hand side. This disparity can lead to a need for braces and in extreme cases, remedial jaw surgery.

Gum Problems

In a mouth-breathing situation, because the mouth is open a lot of the time, the upper front teeth and gums tend to dry out. This is because the area isn’t exposed to the required amount of saliva flow. As we know saliva is a natural defense and rinsing mechanism. The drying out caused in its absence also encourages swollen gums and plaque accumulation, which invites greater bleeding and sensitivity.

Is Your Child a Mouth Breather?

Regular readers know that I’m a big advocate of prevention over reactive treatment. In this spirit, here are some ways to diagnose a mouth breather:
  • Observe them sleeping (kinda creepy) to see If they sleep with their mouth open
  • Have them hold a button or thin piece of paper tightly between their lips ( to force them to hold the lips closed). See if they can tolerate this without discomfort for 10-15 minutes.
  • See your Dentist or Family physician to check for enlarged tonsils.


With the problem diagnosed the best way to correct it is to remove the source of the obstruction as soon as you can. This not only helps with breathing, it also reduces the need for further, extensive dental treatment in the future.

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300 Wellington St. East, Aurora ON,
L4G 1J5 | 905 727 7043
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