ABCs of oral health: Examining breathing aspect from a dental vantage point | Health

The conversations around oral health are generally confined to topics like brushing, flossing and dental check-ups but what many don’t realise is that breathing—a seemingly simple act—holds the power to significantly influence oral health. To help you further, we got a dental health expert to board to discuss the ABCs of oral health, examining this underrated aspect from a dental vantage point.

ABCs of oral health and bad breath: Examining breathing aspect from a dental vantage point (Photo by Dmitry Vechorko on Unsplash)
ABCs of oral health and bad breath: Examining breathing aspect from a dental vantage point (Photo by Dmitry Vechorko on Unsplash)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Rajesh Shetty, Clinical Director at Dazzle Dental Clinic in Mumbai, highlighted:

A – Alignment: Breathing’s Dental Impact

From years of practice, it’s evident that how you breathe can markedly influence the alignment of your jaw and teeth. Nasal breathing, in particular, facilitates proper tongue posture. This, in turn, promotes the correct alignment of your jaw and teeth. On the contrary, mouth breathing, particularly during sleep, tends to position your tongue lower in the oral cavity. Such posture can lead to a chain of problems, such as a narrow upper jaw, crowded teeth, and improper bite alignment. These may further escalate into issues like malocclusion and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ).

B – Bacteria: Breathing and Oral Microbiome

Mouth breathing can compromise the delicate balance of bacteria in your oral environment. Normally, saliva functions as a natural cleanser for the mouth, washing away food particles and neutralizing acids. However, mouth breathing can result in dryness and diminished saliva production, creating a favorable atmosphere for bacterial growth. This sets the stage for cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. On the flip side, nasal breathing helps maintain salivary flow, thereby promoting a healthier oral setting.

C – Craniofacial Development: The Pediatric Consideration

Another significant concern is the impact of breathing on craniofacial development, particularly in children. Mouth breathing during this crucial developmental phase can alter the natural growth of facial bones. This may result in a high-arched palate, crowded teeth, and even affect facial aesthetics, speech, and swallowing. Advocating for nasal breathing from an early age is therefore an investment in long-term oral and general health.

Talking about assessing breathing issues from a professional point of view, Dr Rajesh Shetty said, “As an expert in this field, I advise that if you’re experiencing symptoms like snoring, persistent dry mouth, chronic bad breath, or daytime fatigue, these could be red flags for underlying breathing problems. A comprehensive examination, possibly involving coordination with an otolaryngologist, can help pinpoint the root cause and guide us toward appropriate treatment protocols.”

For exercise and interventions, he recommended, “Practicing nasal breathing exercises can substantially improve your breathing patterns, fortify muscles related to breathing, and augment overall nasal airflow. These exercises can be a natural segue into adopting nasal breathing throughout your daily activities and sleep.”

Suggesting oral appliances and lifestyle changes as practical solutions, Dr Rajesh Shetty said, “For patients struggling with persistent mouth breathing, especially during sleep, oral appliances can offer tangible benefits. Devices like chin straps or mandibular advancement devices can be customized to reposition the jaw, encouraging better nasal breathing. Simple lifestyle adaptations, like regular nasal rinses and avoiding irritants, can also help enhance your breathing quality and thereby contribute to improved oral health.”

Understanding the relationship between breathing and oral health can provide a more comprehensive approach to dental well-being. It’s not just about the teeth and gums; the way you breathe is intrinsically linked to your oral and overall health.

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