Mouth Breathing Associated With Social and Health Problems

The physical, medical, and so­cial problems associated with mouth breathing are not recognized by most healthcare professionals, according to a study published in a recent issue of General Dentistry, the peer-re­viewed clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). Dentists typically re­quest that their patients return every 6 months, which means that some people see their dentist more frequently than they see their physician. Thus, dentists may be the first to identify the symptoms of mouth breathing. And, be­cause dentists un-derstand the problems as­sociated with mouth breathing, they can help prevent the adverse ef­fects. “Allergies can cause up­per airway obstruction, or mouth breathing, in pa­tients,” said study author Yosh Jef­ferson, DMD. 

Children whose mouth breathing goes untreated may suffer from abnormal facial and dental development, such as long, narrow faces and mouths, gummy smiles, gingivitis, and crook­ed teeth. The poor sleeping habits that result from mouth breathing can adversely affect growth and academic performance. As Dr. Jefferson noted, “Many of these children are misdiagnosed with at­tention deficit disorder and hyperactivity.” In addition, mouth breathing can cause poor oxygen concentration in the bloodstream, which can cause high blood pressure, heart problems, sleep apnea, and other medical issues. “Children who mouth breathe typically do not sleep well, causing them to be tired during the day and possibly unable to concentrate on academics,” Dr. Jefferson said. “...he or she may exhibit behavioral problems.” Treat­ment for mouth breathing is available and can be beneficial for children if the condition is caught early. A dentist can check for mouth breathing symptoms and swollen tonsils. If tonsils and/or adenoids are swollen, these can be surgically re­moved by an ear-nose-throat specialist. If the face and mouth are narrow, dentists can use expansion appliances to help widen the sinuses and open nasal airway passages. “After surgery and/or orthodontic intervention, many pa­tients show improvement in behavior, energy level, academic performance, peer acceptance and growth,” says Leslie Grant, DDS, spokesperson for the AGD. “Seeking treatment for mouth breathing can significantly improve quality of life.” 


(Source: AGD, April 6, 2010)




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