Mouth breathing: adverse effects on facial growth, health, academics, and behavior

Gen Dent. 2010 Jan-Feb;58(1):18-25; quiz 26-7, 79-80.


The vast majority of health care professionals are unaware of the negative impact of upper airway obstruction (mouth breathing) on normal facial growth and physiologic health. Children whose mouth breathing is untreated may develop long, narrow faces, narrow mouths, high palatal vaults, dental malocclusion, gummy smiles, and many other unattractive facial features, such as skeletal Class II or Class III facial profiles. These children do not sleep well at night due to obstructed airways; this lack of sleep can adversely affect their growth and academic performance. Many of these children are misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and hyperactivity. It is important for the entire health care community (including general and pediatric dentists) to screen and diagnose for mouth breathing in adults and in children as young as 5 years of age. If mouth breathing is treated early, its negative effect on facial and dental development and the medical and social problems associated with it can be reduced or averted.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Adenoidectomy
  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / etiology
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Malocclusion, Angle Class II / etiology
  • Malocclusion, Angle Class III / etiology
  • Mass Screening
  • Maxillofacial Development / physiology*
  • Mouth Breathing / complications*
  • Mouth Breathing / psychology
  • Palatal Expansion Technique
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology
  • Tonsillectomy