To say that mouth breathing causes sleep apnea is a controversial statement. But it’s one I stand by based on my experience as a myofunctional therapist, and on the latest research we’re seeing the field of myofunctional therapy.
Mouth Breathing Affects The Structure Of The Face
Sleep apnea is directly linked to airway health, and a narrow airway is one of the biggest risk factors in developing obstructive sleep apnea. Children who breathe through their mouth can experience changes in orofacial growth and development. Whether the child has developed a mouth breathing habit because of congestion, or because they’re tongue-tied, mouth breathing kids often develop narrow palates and smaller jaws, along with a lack of forward facial growth, so their faces are longer and narrower.
This means that mouth breathing children can grow up to be adults with a compromised facial structure. This is exactly the kind of facial structure I see in the patients in my practice all the time because these people are prone to airway-related health problems. Some of these problems can be as serious as sleep apnea and other sleep disordered breathing conditions such as Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) or snoring.
In addition to the breathing problems, people who mouth breathe can develop jaw and facial pain and tension, headaches, postural problems, dental problems as well as gastrointestinal symptoms. The health of the mouth is so closely linked to our overall health.
Research Agrees That Myofunctional Therapy Can Help
A 2015 study titled Myofunctional Therapy to Treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis looked at a number of previous studies and concluded:
“Current literature demonstrates that myofunctional therapy decreases apnea-hypopnea index by approximately 50% in adults and 62% in children. Lowest oxygen saturations, snoring, and sleepiness outcomes improve in adults. Myofunctional therapy could serve as an adjunct to other obstructive sleep apnea treatments.”
I couldn’t agree more. Myofunctional therapy is an incredibly effective component of any approach to treating sleep apnea.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
As I point out to many of my patients when they first contact me, it’s better to get in early and address a mouth breathing habit. The reason children can experience such profound developmental changes from a mouth breathing habit is that their bones and structure can be easily changed and influenced. This is good news because with the right intervention, we can remodel their facial structure far more easily than we can in adults.
The kids in my practice get phenomenal results. But this doesn’t mean it’s too late to address sleep apnea and other breathing or airway issues. Myofunctional therapy exercises can have a huge impact on adults too. In fact, some of my patients are in their 60’s and 70’s and they get great results as well.
Mouth Breathing And Sleep Apnea – A Video
Here’s a video from my YouTube channel that covers this topic. If you’d like to find out more about the effects of mouth breathing on sleep apnea and other health concerns, then this channel is a great resource.