But the complications of mouth breathing aren't just physical. Shallow breathing causes insufficient oxygen in the bloodstream, resulting in fitful sleep. The children are tired during the day and perform poorly in school, often exhibiting anger and frustration typical of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As a result, they can be misdiagnosed with this condition.
Such was the case of a 5-year-old boy mentioned in the study. A mouth breather, he was often tired and not doing well in school. He regularly lost control of his behavior and had to be disciplined. But a year after he had his tonsils and adenoids removed and began wearing a functional appliance, his mother reported he was sleeping better at night, his behavior was normal, and he tested in the 99th percentile on a school-administered achievement test. He had also stopped bedwetting.
Humans swallow about 2,000 times day, causing the tongue to exert pressure on the roof of the mouth, widening the palate, Jefferson said. Mouth breathers don't swallow as often because the open mouth tends to be dry. This eliminates pressure, causing the vaulting of the roof of the mouth. The longer the condition is left untreated, the harder it is to fix.
Dr. Leslie Grant, a spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry, said besides allergies, trauma at birth and Down syndrome can also cause mouth breathing.
Grant, who works in dental administration for the State of Maryland, thinks there may be a connection between mouth breathing problems and fewer tonsillectomies, once performed more routinely.
"I appreciate that he is bringing this issue to the forefront of the practice of dentistry because it's important and often overlooked," said Grant.
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