Are you a habitual mouth breather?
It’s not unnatural to breathe through the mouth in certain situations, such as when exertion takes place while running or when lifting heavy objects.
However, if too much time is spent breathing using only the mouth this can lead to the development of health problems which can be particularly serious for children. Mouth breathing can have an effect on long-term facial development.
Your temporomandibular jaw (TMJ) can be affected too, as chronic mouth breathing disturbs the smooth operation of the jaw. The TMJ acts as a hinge, enabling a person to bite, chew, yawn and smile comfortably. Constant mouth breathing can disturb this normal functioning and cause the onset of painful symptoms of TMJ disorder.
Mouth Breathing and Your TMJ
Mouth breathing usually takes place when insufficient air is being accessed through the nose. This could be due to:
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- Allergies, which could cause swelling or polyps;
- An enlarged adenoids or tonsils;
- Respiratory infections such as the common cold or the flu.
If mouth breathing persists it may have an effect on how your bite and teeth are positioned. We use the tongue and jaw for speaking, swallowing and eating. When these areas are used for breathing, postural adjustments need to be made.
Persistent mouth breathers usually pull their head so far forward that it is in front of the shoulders and it is tilted back so that the airway remains open. This posture adjustment pulls down the jaw and back and the position of the tongue is changed too as it is pulled down so that it does not produce any force against the teeth’s upper arch.
In the absence of this force, the upper jaw when developing fails to grow fully so the nasal cavity becomes constricted. This can cause a bite problem which could lead to misalignment of the TMJ.
What can I do about this problem?
If you habitually breathe using the mouth and are experiencing any symptoms of TMJ disorder, your doctor and dentist should be told.
A dentist with neuromuscular dentistry experience will undertake to correct any TMJ misalignment and bite adjustments while the doctor will diagnose and fix the breathing problem. It is a problem that needs a unified approach involving both dentist and doctor.
The dentist can help alleviate the symptoms that appear when your jaw has become out of alignment as a result of persistent mouth breathing. He or she has a number of different options to address the TMJ problem including fitting a custom made orthotic device which fits inside your mouth and gently repositions your jaw over time.
However, your TMJ problems could persist if you continue to breathe mostly through your mouth, so the reasons for this preference should be discussed with your doctor. There may be medical reasons why you tend to do this and these should be addressed as part of the treatment of your TMJ disorder.
Get treatment so you can breathe more easily
While persistent mouth breathing can cause what seem to be a lot of seemingly unrelated health problems these can be addressed by a combination of neuromuscular dentistry and medical help.
Breathing easily should be enjoyed by everyone, so if you are finding you are breathing through your mouth too often, it is time to get it sorted out.
Find a TMJ Dentist in your area
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