Mouth Breathing Risks

Health risks associated with mouth breathing

A study published in the January/February 2010 issue of General Dentistry says that the physical, medical and social problems associated with mouth breathing have gone unrecognized by most health professionals. This is of interest to allergy sufferers who find themselves unable to breathe through the nose during allergy season.

The paper, authored by Yosh Jefferson, DMD, details the potential consequences of long-term mouth breathing in children. Untreated mouth breathing can result in abnormal facial and dental development, leading to long, narrow faces, gingivitis and crooked teeth. Breathing through the mouth can cause inadequate oxygen concentration in the blood, which in turn can lead to high blood pressure, heart problems and sleep apnea.

Mouth breathing can also contribute to poor sleep, with detrimental effects on both physical growth and academic performance. "Many of these children are misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and hyperactivity," says Dr. Jefferson. They are tired during the day and may have difficulty concentrating on school work, leading to frustration that can manifest as behavioral problems.

Treatments for mouth breathing include surgical removal of swollen tonsils or adenoids by an ear-nose-throat specialist (ENT), and orthodontic appliances to widen the sinuses and open nasal passages. Both of these options aim to make breathing through the nose easier and more comfortable.

Leslie Grant, DDS, spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry, says that "many patients show improvement in behavior, energy level, academic performance, peer acceptance and growth" after seeking treatment for mouth breathing.

April 7, 2010

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