If you are a chronic mouth breather, either during the day or in your sleep, you might be at risk for gum disease and tooth loss.
Why Mouth Breathing Is So Harmful To Teeth
Mouth breathing creates an acidic environment leading to overgrowth of harmful bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. The pH of the mouth is designed to be alkaline during health. Mouth breathing also dries out the mouth. A dry mouth makes teeth and gum tissues more sticky and the bacteria are harder to brush off with a toothbrush.
Another side effect of mouth breathing is that during sleep you are more likely to grind your teeth. Teeth grinding puts more pressure on the teeth and ligaments and can accelerate gum disease progression and tooth loss.
Mouth breathing is extremely damaging to the teeth and can lead to gum disease around natural teeth and even dental implants. Simply put, gum disease around teeth and dental implants simply can not be treated effectively if there is a mouth breathing habit present.
Mouth Breathing Creates Muscle Imbalances
In a healthy mouth the tongue postures up against the roof of the mouth also known as the palate. During nose breathing, the lips are closed and the tongue is resting up on the palate.
Mouth breathing leads to a low tongue posture because the lips are open and the tongue stays down behind the lower teeth instead of posturing up against the palate.
As a result of this low tongue posture, the back of the tongue gets weak and the swallow becomes affected. When we swallow, we are supposed to brace the tongue against the palate to create a seal and push the food into the throat with the back of the tongue. A low tongue posture leads to an incorrect swallow where the tongue thrusts against the teeth instead of the palate to create the seal needed for the swallow. The other muscles of the TMJ and face need to compensate and a muscle imbalance develops.
What is Myofunctional Therapy?
Myofunctional therapy is a series of isotonic and isometric exercises that strengthen and tone the tongue, lip, cheek and throat muscles.
There are four goals of myofunctional therapy:
- develop a proper tongue posture with the tongue resting on the roof of the mouth;
- develop a good oral rest posture with the lips closed;
- promote nose breathing;
- develop a correct swallowing pattern.
The exercises of myofunctional therapy strengthen and balance out the tongue and facial muscles so that the tongue can assume a healthy posture for nose breathing and a correct swallow.
Myofunctional therapy is important for gum disease prevention and enhancing gum disease treatments, especially if you have a mouth breathing or tongue-thrusting habit. It can even help with headaches and jaw pain like TMJ pain. I used to wonder why some patients were prone to gum disease even though they took great care of their teeth. And I never really understood what was causing their TMJ pain.
Now I know that I was missing a big piece of the puzzle- an imbalance of the tongue and facial muscles leading to mouth breathing and tongue thrusting.
Myofunctional Therapy Can Help TMJ Pain
The exercises of myofunctional therapy also stabilize the jaw and TMJ. Many patients report that their TMJ pain goes away.
Myofunctional Therapy Can Reduce Orthodontic Relapse
Tongue thrusting can lead to relapse of crooked teeth after orthodontic therapy. Myofunctional therapy reduces the excessive pushing action the tongue exerts on the teeth during tongue thrust swallows. Remember that we swallow 500-1000 times per day so a lot of force is being placed on the teeth throughout the day if there is a tongue thrust habit. This is enough force to move teeth that have been corrected orthodontically and cause relapse. You should not need to wear a retainer to keep your teeth from shifting. A balanced and healthy posture and muscle function contributes to maintaining straight teeth.
I underwent orofacial myofunctional therapy myself with Joy Moeller. My tongue thrust habit was corrected. I was also pleased with the changes to my face. I feel that my face looks softer and my muscles are more relaxed. I was so inspired by the results of myofunctional therapy that I became Joy Moeller’s student to learn more so that I could better help my patients with gum disease. I even wrote a chapter about myofunctional therapy in my book, “Keep Your Teeth: A Practical Guide For Everyone”. You can buy a copy on Amazon.
Treating Gum Disease Around Teeth and Dental Implants
I am a Harvard-trained, Board-certified periodontist and I use LANAP laser technology to treat gum disease around natural teeth and dental implants. You can find out more about laser treatment for gum disease on my website.
If you are suffering from gum disease or you have been told you need to have teeth pulled, please get a second opinion! You are welcome to call my office to schedule a consultation. We look forward to meeting you and helping you Keep Your Teeth for a lifetime.