It seems chronic mouth breathers have yet another health concern to worry about. All in all, the practice is seldom associated with positive things, with the latest information only piling on top of an already high list of risky health symptoms.
Whether you read into the implications of the recent mouth-taping TikTok trend, or the increasing number of health studies available, mouth breathing is generally considered to be something we want to avoid.
Being called a ‘mouth breather’ has long been used as a derogatory term, rudely insinuating a person lacks the intelligence to do something as simple as breathe through their nose. But while the insult may cut deep, the health implications of mouth breathing go far beyond the surface.
There are already studies suggesting mouth breathing can significantly result in a lower concentration of oxygen in the blood, fast-tracking someone towards symptoms of heart failure. Chronic asthmatics have also been warned to monitor if, and how much, they are relying on mouth breathing, given their already decreased lung function.
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But now, experts are claiming that without intervention from a young age, chronic mouth breathing may in fact permanently alter your face shape.
“Mouth breathing is a major issue especially if this started before puberty because it can have such a huge impact on the way that your facial structure grows and the end result of what your face is going to look like,” Dr Arash Moradzadeh tells allure.
The Beverly Hills-based facial reconstruction surgeon says that without intervention, chronic mouth breathing as a child can manifest as rounder cheeks and an elongated face.
So what’s the big difference between inhaling through your nose vs. your mouth? To put it bluntly, the human nose acts as a sort of filter, refining the quality of the air you inhale.
Habitual mouth breathing during intense exercise is common, but consistently finding yourself breathing through your mouth at all times of the day is cause for concern.
So how exactly does it impact our face development?
Dr Albert Silvera, another Beverly Hills-based expert, says the gradual modification comes down to a displacement of pressure from our tongue.
“When you breathe through your nose, your tongue naturally fills your palate space and exerts an upward and outward pressure. It promotes forward growth of the jawbones,” the doctor of dental surgery explains.
The long-term implications of this displaced pressure are extensive, such as stumped growth of the bottom jaw, crowding of teeth, constricted airways, and difficulty sleeping.
“Mouth breathers are more likely to have or develop more forward tongue posture and jaw and neck posture problems,” Dr Moradzadeh adds. “Their head kind of sticks more forward over time, and that leads to a more curved back posturing.”
Is there anything mouth breathers can do?
Before you let TikTok experts misguide you into sticking your mouth shut with a piece of scotch tape, take a deep breath and read what the real experts recommend.
Both doctors emphasise the importance of understanding why you’re breathing through your mouth in the first place. With consistent awareness and effort, it is possible to decrease the prevalence of mouth breathing.
Other interventions later in life targeting things like posture and sleep can also make a difference to the health symptoms someone might be experiencing as a result of years of inhaling through their mouth.
But when it comes to permanently reversing the physical changes to mouth breathers’ bone structure developed in childhood, there’s not on the table aside from plastic surgery and cosmetic injectables.