A recent study published in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation has found that sleeping with your mouth open can be even worse for your teeth than fizzy drinks.
This is because the flow of air through the mouth dries it out and removes both the protective plaque on the teeth and the saliva, which are naturally able to kill bacteria in the mouth.
Mouth breathing is most common at night due to issues such as allergies, enlarged tonsils, blockages of the sinuses or nose, congestion from infection or sleep apnea.
It can cause a number of health issues and people who can’t help but breathe through their mouths should visit a GP to get the bottom of why this is the case.
We spoke to Dr Petros Ioannis Moschouris, a registered specialist in periodontics and an implant dentist, to ask what health risks we face when we breath through our mouths. This is what we need to be looking out for…
1. Dry mouth and lips
In mouth breathers, fluid is lost through evaporation which leads to a dry mouth and lips. This has serious consequences including impaired swallowing and a decrease in the protective function of saliva. It can also be very uncomfortable.
2. Tooth decay
Saliva has many important functions — it self-cleans the mouth, clears any unwanted acids and protects our enamel. When the mouth has less saliva due to open breathing, the plaque pH is lowered which increases the numbers of unwanted bacteria. This massively increases the risk of getting tooth decay which, in the worst case scenario, can lead to tooth loss.
3. Halitosis (bad breath)
Halitosis is a condition characterized by altered halitus which is unpleasant for the affected individual and those around them. Mouth breathing is related to bad breath because the decrease in saliva reduces the mouth’s abiltiy to self-clean, leading to higher bacterial flora. Tooth decay can also cause bad breath.
While the head, skull and jaw are growing, they adapt to our breathing patterns. Breathing through the mouth can affect the dental arches and the positioning of the teeth which can have a domino effect on the lips, tongue and palate. Common facial features in people who mouth breathe are shorter faces, tooth crowding, narrowed nasal passages, enlarged nostrils, smaller chins and stiffer, more rigid lips.
5. Abnormal swallowing
Mouth breathing is related to abnormal swallowing because, when your mouth is dry, you are likely to thrust the tongue forward to swallow instead of closing the mouth. In normal swallowing, the tongue pressures the roof of the mouth and creates waves which send the food down the oesophagus and into the stomach. Mouth breathers, however, swallow a lot more air, which can affect the stomach’s reflux.
Mouth breathing does not allow as much oxygen into the lungs which can lead to feelings of fatigue.
What to do if you’re a mouth breather
The bottom line is that if you breathe primarily through your mouth, consider seeing your doctor to determine whether the cause can be reversed. Allergies can be treated, and anatomical blockages can be surgically corrected. For night mouth breathers, weight loss can be helpful if obesity is causing the obstruction.
Source: Good Housekeeping UK