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Straight Talk on Teeth

Mouth breathing

In the past I have written about bite imbalance and its link to head and neck pain as well as ear and balance problems. I have also written about arch/jaw development and expansion in kids. This time I’d like to focus in on one of the key signs that give us indication that there is trouble on the horizon. Namely, mouth breathing.

The two pictures are of adults that have bite problems because of being a mouth breather all their lives. Mouth breathing is one of the most dangerous and misdiagnosed conditions that exist today.

How could mouth breathing cause all these problems?

The tongue is the most powerful muscle in the body. It is supposed to rest on the roof of the mouth, giving it a U shape. As a child grows, the tongue continues its molding effect in either a positive or negative effect. If one can't breathe through the nose adequately, the mouth opens and the tongue goes down and forward to create room for air to pass. This molds the teeth and bone with its constant pushing creating a V shape to the upper jaw.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, and the two above speak volumes. Looking at misshapen mouths like these is like looking at a crime scene. Look how large the tongue is in the first picture. It appears unleveled with the right side being lower and fatter than the left. Notice how the lower teeth follow its contour? An analogy of a bite like this is like having a right leg being four inches longer than the left. Uneven legs make it hard to walk and uneven teeth really cause problems in the head, neck and ears.

The second picture is an example of a tongue thruster. Instead of the tongue going to the roof of the mouth, it pushes forward and the upper jaw is molded around it. People with this condition can only bite on the very back teeth; it's like only being able to walk on your heels. Over time, something has to give.


How can you recognize a child mouth breather?

As a parent, grandparent, teacher or guardian, you really already know if the child you are responsible for has breathing problems. What you may not know is how devastating this problem can be for a lifetime. The purpose of this article is to give you more insight and why and how the condition can be so harmful.

Child mouth breathers have the following symptoms:

  • The roof of the mouth is very high and V shaped instead of the normal U shape.
  • Crooked teeth.
  • The upper and lower jaws do not come together correctly.
  • The upper jaw is too small.
  • The front teeth often do not meet.
  • Enlarged tonsils.

In the face one can see:

  • Shiners under the eyes (dark, discoloured circles under the eyes).
  • The bones in the mid face are underdeveloped.
  • Lower jaw is under developed making it look like they have no chin.
  • An underdeveloped chin makes the nose look longer.
  • The child may also have multiple ear infections, draining of Eustachian tubes, night grinders and restless sleep.



Treatment is possible at all stages of life; however, early intervention with children around the age of 7 or 8 makes all the difference in being able to simplify the treatment and improve the outcome. So, whether you’re an adult with a mouth breathing issue, or have a child with one – make sure you are evaluated, associated problems are identified, and treatment options are reviewed.

Read more Straight Talk on Teeth articles


About the Author

Dr. Mark Provencher is a general dentist having graduated with distinction from the University of Alberta in 1997. He is active in numerous professional organizations and is a perpetual student that prefers a proactive, holistic, "why-based" approach to care. He has hundreds of hours of extra training in the areas of neuromuscular dentistry, sleep dentistry/sleep apnea, cosmetic and complex restorative dentistry. He practices in the Pandosy Village area and lives in Kelowna with his beautiful wife and two young children.

Contact Dr. Provencher at [email protected]




The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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