Straight Teeth Talk: Prevent ravaging effects of mouth breathing in children

Dec. 6, 2011 at 6:06 a.m.

Bicuspid drop off

Bicuspid drop off

By Mac Lee

Last month, I wrote about how breathing through the mouth as a child can cause crooked teeth, collapsed bites, headaches, neck aches, ear problems like tinnitus, dizziness, vertigo and the feeling of being stopped up as one becomes an adult.

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 the child grows, the tongue continues its molding effect in either a positive or negative effect. If one can't breathe through the nose, the mouth opens and the tongue goes down and forward, molding the teeth and bone with its constant pushing creating a V shape.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, and the two above speak volumes. Looking at misshaped mouths like these is like looking at a crime scene. Look how large the tongue is in the first picture. It appears unlevel 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 be 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 jaw 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, discolored 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.

Preventive steps

The critical age of preventing the ravaging effects of mouth breathing is around nine years of age. Past nine, it is hard for the bone to be able to remold itself to the correct position. If your loved young one has the above problem, please take this article and discuss it with your dentist, board certified orthodontist and ENT specialist. It only makes sense that the dental and medical profession work together on this issue.

Mac Lee is a dentist in practice in Edna. He is the co-founder of Dentists Who Care, a national movement to educate the public on modern dentistry. If you have dental questions, you can call him at 361-782-7191 or visit him at



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