It feels natural to breathe through your nose because our bodies are physiologically designed to do so. Breathing through your nose allows your developmental forces to reach a balance. When you breathe through your mouth when you sleep, especially as a child or teen, this can result in imbalanced development problems like jaw and tooth deformations that can contribute to TMJ. So is sleeping with your mouth open bad for your teeth? Read our blog to see how something as simple as mouth breathing can cause so many problems.

Mouth breathing can lead to TMJ

What Causes Mouth Breathing?

There are a few reasons why you might breathe through your mouth while you sleep. Usually, allergies or airborne irritants are the culprits. This includes dust, pollen or chemicals that contribute to poor air quality. Another cause of mouth breathing is minor food allergies which may or may not present visible symptoms. Minor food allergies can lead to inflammatory (swelling) in the tonsils or adenoids. When these become inflamed, they can block airflow through the nose and lead to mouth breathing while you sleep.

The Effect of Mouth Breathing on the Upper Arch

Your tongue’s resting position is normally on the top of your mouth which balances the development of your upper arch. Your tongue pushes outward and your cheeks push inward to create a balance of forces to develop a proper u-shaped arch.

With mouth breathing, your tongue moves away from the top of your mouth. As a result, there is more pressure from your cheeks that can cause your upper teeth to crowd teeth into a v-shaped arch.

Lateral Tongue Thrust and Bicuspid Dropoff

On the other hand, if your tongue finds itself always pointed toward the bottom of your mouth, it can interfere with your swallowing function. When you swallow, your tongue should be at the top of your mouth and your jaw should close to anchor the swallowing muscles. If you breathe throw your mouth, your tongue will remain at the bottom of your mouth which can suppress the emergence of the lower teeth.

If you spend too much time with your mouth open, this allows extra space for your front teeth to over-erupt. The disparity between the over erupted front teeth and the suppressed back teeth cause a disparity known as the bicuspid dropoff.

The Bicuspid Dropoff and Jaw Position

Once there is a disparity between your rear teeth and your front teeth, your jaw will have difficulty closing in a natural position that’s healthy for your jaw.

In order for your jaw to close, your lower jaw must slide up and behind your upper jaw. This forces your jaw backward, and the bony part of the mandible in the temporomandibular joint, the condyle, moves back to rub against the temporal socket. The cushioning disc that protects the condyle from abrasive forces, is forced forward out of place.

As the jaw moves, the cushioning disc will move in and out of place, which is what causes the clicking noise as you open and close your mouth.

How Poor Jaw Position Leads to TMJ Symptoms

You wouldn’t think to pair TMJ and mouth breathing, but they are actually quite a compatible pair. Once your jaw leaves its natural position, you will start to feel pain or soreness in the jaw joint and muscles. If your muscles become tense and start to spasm, it can contribute to tension in other muscles in the neck and head which can result in neck pain and headaches.

You might also experience other TMJ symptoms such as tooth grinding and clenching. This causes the teeth to become damaged and worn which can shift your jaw even further back.

The pressure of the condyle against the temporal bone (where the ear is housed) or pressure on nerves carrying signals from the ear to the brain can contribute to tinnitus and vertigo.

As your teeth shift backward and you continue to breathe through your mouth, you may also experience snoring and sleep apnea as a result.

Can TMJ Cause Breathing Problems?

Although mouth breathing can cause TMJ and breathing and TMJ share a link, you might wonder can TMJ cause breathing problems? The answer is yes. Although they share reversed roles, having TMJ first can result in mouth breathing. When you have issues with your alignment and your bite, this can block airways which can result in mouth breathing.

Restore Jaw Position and Health

If you experience any TMJ symptoms and you breathe through your mouth, it’s important to restore your jaw to its ideal position. We can provide you with a mouth guard for mouth breathers to allow you to sleep with your tongue in its proper position while you sleep. We can also use bite splits to restore your jaw to its optimal resting position. After using the bite splints and the mouth guard for mouth breathers for a while, your symptoms will begin to improve.

Learn how TMJ treatment can help you stop breathing through your mouth and restore your airway to eliminate symptoms for good by calling River Edge Dental at (201) 343-4044 to schedule a consultation with a TMJ dentist.