Breathe in Through the Nose
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, more than 50 million Americans are affected by allergies each year and this number is continually increasing. Allergies are among the top 10 leading causes of chronic illness. One of the best ways to eliminate or reduce allergens from entering the body is to breathe in through the nose. Most Americans do not realize they constantly breathe through their mouth, a phenomenon called mouth breathing. In order to gain better development of the sinuses, breathe through the nose.
Consistent mouth breathing, for any reason, alters the development of the face and jaws, preventing the face to grow to its full and healthful proportions. This altered facial growth enforces mouth breathing and restricts nasal breathing. Better sinus development begins with nasal breathing. The face contains intricate muscles that remodel facial bones over time. If the resting posture of the face and mouth are incorrect, facial form is incorrect. Facial development is nearly complete by age 12. The bones are more pliable before this age.
Compressed sinuses and habitual mouth breathing causes over breathing and creates low CO2 levels. CO2 contributes to our buffering system, which guards against pH swings. If we are short on this buffer, our saliva or urine may register as too acidic or too alkaline. This can trigger inflammation and nasal mucous production in an effort to slow CO2 loss. Stuffy noses encourage mouth breathing, creating a cycle of CO2 loss. The more one mouth breathes, the more allergens and dry, cool air they must process.
Mouth breathing causes enlarged tonsils, which also narrow the airway. While at rest, sighing or sniffing regularly, irregular breathing, large breaths prior to talking, frequent yawning, or breathing using the upper chest rather than the diaphragm, can be signs of low carbon dioxide levels. As we inhale through our nasal and sinus passages, nitric oxide helps control microbes in sinuses and lungs and improves circulation by dilating blood vessels. Like carbon dioxide, it helps oxygen release into cells. Good circulation lowers blood pressure, improves sexual function and nourishes skin. Ineffective oxygen or nitric oxide delivery to cells underlies many diseases.
Early Actions Parents Should Take
1. Breast-feeding: Immunoglobulins and human proteins in breast milk help infants resist allergies while formula is often a significant source of protein allergies and stuffy noses. Clear nasal passages allow babies to breathe through their noses instead of learning to mouth breathe.
Breast-fed infants also learn to work their lips, cheeks and tongues differently than bottle-fed babies. The coordination required for an infant to swallow and breathe while breastfeeding is a critical step in learning correct swallow patterns and promotes optimal development of the palate and sinuses.
Discourage non-nutritive sucking, whether it be pacifiers, fingers, arms or cheeks. These influence development by creating a strong vacuum within the mouth and teach babies an incorrect sucking pattern. This not only affects the appearance of the teeth but the shape of the palate, cranial bones and sinuses. These habits also encourage the tongue to rest on the floor of the mouth. Toddlers should switch to a regular cup as early as possible, since sippy cups are also a problem.
2. Watch for flattened cheeks or unusual mouth shape. These conditions almost always worsen. Dark circles under the eyes and slumping shoulders can indicate allergies, poor sleep and poor oral posture. Do not ignore allergies or large tonsils or adenoids. Blocked noses lead to open mouth postures.
3. Look for parted lips or chewing with an open mouth at any age as it indicates a person is breathing and chewing through the same space. One’s face continues to change throughout life. It may grow downwards to such an extent a child may struggle to close his lips at all. Once this happens, it is very difficult to correct by means other than surgery. Persuade your child to keep his mouth closed at rest.
4. Treatment to guide facial growth can begin at age 4. By age 5 there should be spaces between the front baby teeth. Their permanent successors, which arrive at about age 6, are much larger. If lower front teeth are crowded at 6 years of age, begin treatment immediately. At the very least, your child may need to improve his oral posture.
5. Look at speech. The tongue should be in the palate for most sounds. If it protrudes sideways or forwards between the teeth, the teeth are likely to displace. A lisp usually indicates the tongue is incorrectly between the teeth. The lips should contact between most syllables.
6. Release tight tissue attachments that anchor the tongue and lips and prevent a proper tongue rest position and swallow. It also releases shoulder girdle muscles.
7. Consider orofacial myofunctional therapy to repattern muscles. Therapy involves making new neuromuscular pathways for better habits.
8. Orthodontics: Find a dentist who practices “full face” orthodontics. These practitioners prefer to start around age four to guide growth and develop the face forward, rather than downward and back. Properly done, an expansion will improve the airway. Whatever orthodontic style you choose, ask how the plan will impact the airway. Even adults may orthodontically expand their palates to experience relief.
Dr. Amparo M. David, DMD, has her own practice, Dentistry by Dr. David, located at 563 Main St., Bolton, where she practices general and cosmetic dentistry and orthodontics. She also has completed a residency in dental sleep medicine and sleep apnea and is able to assist some of her patients with this common problem. For more information, call 978-779-2888 or visit BoltonDental.com.