Improving Your Quality Of Life, One Breath At A Time

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Orthodontics And Mouth Breathing

The human mouth has changed over the ages; our teeth and our tongue have become ever more crowded by the shrinking of the human jaw. Not only is this an aesthetic disaster, but it compromises our breathing, which in turn can disrupt sleep. Research also shows that abnormal craniofacial formation can lead to airway obstruction, impaired respiration, impaired nasal breathing, chronic mouth breathing, sleep apnea, sleep disorders and lifelong ill-health.

While orthodontists are primarily known for straightening teeth, Dr. Glass is diligent in recognizing and improving some forms of breathing disorders in young children, teens and adults.


What Is Mouth Breathing?

A mouth breather is someone who habitually breathes in and out through their mouth, rather than their nose, causing a range of issues including:

Chronic airway irritation

Increased risk of tooth decay, bad breath and gum disease

Poor quality sleep, leading to increased risk of behavioral and social difficulties

Developmental problems affecting the facial structure, jaw, bite and tongue position

Why Is Mouth Breathing Bad?

Under ideal conditions, humans breathe through their noses allowing the air to be warmed and moistened before entering the respiratory system. However, a significant portion of the population, including children, breathe through their mouths instead.

The problem is that mouth breathing can have long-term effects, ranging from a dry mouth to tooth decay, and sleep interruption. Studies show that children with prolonged breathing issues, like mouth breathing, snoring or obstructive sleep apnea, can go on to develop potential problems such as craniofacial malformation, malocclusion and jaw misalignment.

Children who don’t breathe properly can also experience a range of problems from headaches and trouble sleeping, to developmental issues with their teeth, jaw and face. Interrupted sleep can lead to potential future health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease. In school-aged children, it can impact their behavior and their ability to retain information.

What symptoms should I be looking for in my child?

  • Dry lips

  • Crowded teeth

  • Snoring and open mouth while sleeping

  • Increased number of airway infections such as sinus, ear or colds

  • Nighttime asthma

  • Fatigue and drowsiness during the day

How Can Orthodontics Help Teens With Airway Obstructions?

Ideally, as we grow, the upper palate expands. With the expansion, the nasal passages also grow to promote efficient nose breathing, better sleep, fewer illnesses, and better school and work performance. When this growth doesn’t occur, obstructed airways are the result. The symptoms of obstructed airways may present in children as:

  • Frequent awakenings 
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Restlessness while sleeping
  • Daytime mouth breathing
  • Poor school performance
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Hyperactivity and/or ADHD

Teenagers with airway obstruction often benefit from oral appliances that guide the development of their upper and lower jaws. The Acrylic TAD Expander can expand the palate and dramatically affect nasal and sinus passages. As the passages grow, patients find breathing easier. As your orthodontist, Dr. Glass believes in making it easier for you to breathe by reducing your airway obstructions. The function of your smile always comes first because it is what truly improves your life.

Before and After
Before and After
Before and After
Before and After
Before and After
Before and After
Before and After


Case: Narrow upper jaw and crowding. Patient also reported difficulties with breathing through the nose.

Treatment: This patient was treated with a TAD expander and traditional braces. At the end of her treatment, reported improvements in nasal breathing

How Can Orthodontics Help Adults With Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea can be caused by orthodontic issues. In some patients, the airway isn’t blocked by issues with the throat muscles but instead by one or more of the following orthodontic problems:

  • Tooth misalignment
  • Jaw misalignment
  • Dental arch issue
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When an orthodontic issue is causing sleep apnea, the condition requires the expertise of an orthodontic specialist who can treat the issue. Dr. Glass will examine you and use images of your mouth to determine the exact cause of the obstruction. For many cases, he can use an Acrylic TAD Expander or an MSE Implant Expander to widen or expand the upper jaw. Expanders are an effective treatment because expanding the upper jaw also affects the floor of the nasal cavity, helping to increase airflow and making breathing easier.

If patients have severe obstructive sleep apnea, they may be candidates for Surgically Assisted Maxillary Expansion or SAME. This surgery is performed when the use of palate expanders alone cannot provide the necessary results. Palatal expansion with TAD or surgery is a great alternative for patients who cannot tolerate oral appliances at night and cannot adhere to CPAP treatment. Widening the palate dramatically affects nasal and sinus passages, helping to provide unencumbered breathing. In addition to improved breathing and better sleep, patients may also notice improved function and appearance when treatment is complete.

Let’s Get Started


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