By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert
According to the 2015 “About Last Night” survey, mouth breathing affects 71% of Americans. But just because it’s common, doesn’t mean it’s not something to be concerned about. Let’s take a look at the symptoms of mouth breathing and its effect on oral health.
Common indicators of mouth breathing
Do you or your loved one snore? Snoring is one of the most obvious signs of mouth breathing. Additional red flags include:
- Dry mouth and lips in the morning
- Chronic bad breath (halitosis)
- Crowding of teeth
- Frequent colds
- Frequent sinus or ear infections
But the effects of mouth breathing don’t end with these bothersome symptoms.
Mouth breathing negatively impacts the teeth
- Mouth breathing can cause teeth to wear down.
Although there are several reasons for worn teeth, when nighttime breathing is obstructed by the tongue or throat tissues, our bodies enact a defense mechanism—we clench our teeth in an attempt to open up our airways. This clenching, also known as bruxing, causes teeth to wear down over time.
- Mouth breathing can cause tooth decay.
When we mouth breathe, our mouths dry out. This means that the saliva that helps us wash harmful bacteria out of our mouths during the daytime hours isn’t bountiful enough to do its job while we’re sleeping, leading to a buildup of bacteria that erodes our teeth.
Add this to the fact that a dry mouth can’t maintain proper PH levels and becomes increasingly acidic which also contributes to tooth erosion and decay.
- Mouth breathing can create an “open bite.”
An open bite occurs when the tongue is thrust into the front teeth in order to open up an obstructed airway. Over time, the upper front teeth push forward far enough that they no longer contact the edges of the lower front teeth.
Mouth breathing negatively impacts the tongue and gums
- Mouth breathing can cause gum disease.
Not only does a dry mouth wreak havoc on teeth but it also causes problems with the gum tissue. When saliva isn’t present to do its job washing the mouth of harmful bacteria, this bacteria can build up along and under the gum tissue, leading to gingivitis. Left untreated, gingivitis can cause gum disease and result in a host of issues throughout the body.
- Mouth breathing can cause a scalloped tongue.
When the tongue puts forward pressure on the front teeth, it can develop a semi-permanent imprint of the teeth, resulting in a scalloped appearance.
In some cases, a child’s jaws don’t develop properly and there isn’t enough room in their mouth for their tongue. Not only can this lead to a scalloped tongue but it can result in an elongated facial structure.
At Eggert Family Dentistry, we have experience diagnosing and treating mouth breathing. Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff apply their knowledge and experience to find the right interventions to restore and protect your oral health. If you’re concerned that you or your loved one is dealing with the harmful effects of mouth breathing, give us a call at 651.482.8412 to learn how we can help!