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Were you born a mouth breather, or did you develop mouth breathing as a result of having untreated sleep apnea?

Some people always have been and always will be mouth breathers due to their anatomical make up. Some of us lack muscle tone causing the jaw to drop. Others have chronic nasal congestion from allergies or other nasal anomalies and if one cannot breathe well through the nose, it may unconsciously forces us to mouth breathe.

However, there is a large population of people who became mouth breathers with the onset of sleep apnea. When an apnea episode occurs, we stop breathing. As our oxygen levels dip, it sends the brain in to a panic to breathe resulting in the loud snore, and sudden gasp to gulp in air as quickly as possible. When apnea events occur fast and furious all during the night, we often develop the habit of sleeping with our mouths open to accommodate the need for oxygen.

Diagnosing a Mouth Breather

A routine diagnosis of a patient’s breathing status normally includes a visual assessment, medical history, a clinical exam, and a dental mirror test. These are part of my protocol in diagnosing a mouth breather. But recently, scientists wondered if orthodontists were able to perform the same diagnosis, particularly in young people.

Their findings were interesting.

The Study

Three independent and blind evaluations were conducted by two orthodontists and an otolaryngologist. There were 55 participants — 20 were nasal breathers, and 35 were classified as mouth breathers. The mouth breather, incidentally, were subdivided into two groups: mouth breathers by airway obstruction and mouth breathers by habit.

The Conclusion

Based on the findings, and comparisons made by pre and post reports, the researchers determined that recognition of mouth breathing in young people by orthodontists is poor.

Dentists continue to be the first line of defense in property diagnosing and addressing chronic mouth breathing in both children and adults.

For a more in-depth review of the study — Clinical Recognition of Mouth Breathers by Orthodontists — please click HERE.