The relationship between oral breathing and malocclusions

Where does mouth breathing come from: An evolutionary review

Oral breathing is a very common harmful habit, both in adults and children, and it generates a long list of repercussions, as we have already discussed in previous blog articles. This is due, above all, to the fact that we are biologically prepared and predisposed to breathe through the nose, and not doing so means that the nasal floor is not stimulated, the palate does not widen and remains very narrow, which means that it is increasingly common to find crossbites in children between the ages of 7 and 9.

All this adds up to the fact that, evolutionarily, our face and mouth have changed over the centuries. In earlier times, dental crowding was much less common than it is today, because jaws and noses were larger, as larger and harder foods needed to be chewed than they are now. This is mainly due to the industrialisation of the food sector: our food is increasingly processed and soft, which has made forceful chewing dispensable and has led to a reduction in the forces exerted by the mouth, which in turn has led to the evolutionary consequence of smaller jaws in which crowding and malocclusions are becoming more frequent.

This narrowing of the jaws in turn leads to an anatomical narrowing of the airways, which means that breathing becomes more common through the mouth than through the nose, which has become narrower.

Consequences of mouth breathing

Mouth breathing is a very common harmful habit in adults and children that has repercussions such as:

  • Respiratory diseases such as asthma, allergy or constipation
  • Alterations in the growth and development of the skull and face such as: elongated faces, half-open mouths, dark circles under the eyes, flat cheekbones, short upper lip...etc.
  • Dental malocclusions with severely pro-inclined incisors, anterior open bite and/or crossbite
  • Sleep disorders: sleeping with the mouth open and breathing through the mouth dries out the throat, leading to snoring and sleep apnoea. All this leads to general tiredness, increased susceptibility to stress, anxiety or attention deficit.
  • Decreased oxygenation levels

Tackling the root of the problem

Like the rest of its scientific counterparts, orthodontics is a discipline that has begun to focus on prevention when it is still possible, hence the importance of dental check-ups from an early age.

Early rehabilitation that teaches us to breathe properly, chew correctly and swallow properly will have a huge impact not only on the health of our mouth, but also on our body in general, which is why, with the help of the orthodontist, what we are looking for is correct nasal breathing, good tongue placement and energetic bilateral chewing.

Depending on the age of the patient it may be necessary to complement this rehabilitation with orthodontic or orthopaedic treatment (depending on age).

Clinical case

A practical example of what we have told you: A 25-year-old patient undergoing invisible orthodontic treatment. During her examination and assessment appointment, we were able to see that the patient had lip incompetence, which leads her to breathe through her mouth instead of through her nose. Therefore, we decided to combine her traditional treatment with a functional treatment to improve her lip seal. We do this by means of adhesive strips Myotape night-time use, plus exercises explained by our orthodontist to help improve the lip seal.

Are you interested in orthodontics? Don't miss anything, sign up for our newsletter