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Updated on November 28, 2022

Mouth Breather Face

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What Causes a Mouth Breather Face?

Mouth breathing can cause changes in your facial structure and jaw alignment. Spending most of the day and night breathing through the mouth instead of the nose causes a ‘mouth breather face’ to develop.

There are several physical and medical causes of mouth breathing. These include:

  • Genetic factors
  • Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
  • Nasal polyps
  • Nasal congestion from allergies or sinusitis
  • Deviated septum
  • Tongue tie (ankyloglossia)

Is Mouth Breather Face a Medical Condition?

Yes, the medical term for a ‘mouth breather face’ is facial hyper divergence, also known as an adenoid face or long-face syndrome.

Nasal breathing is essential for the balanced growth of your face, head, and jaw.5 Chronic mouth breathing can cause muscle imbalances that lead to noticeable facial changes, including:

  • Elongated face
  • The inability to close the lips comfortably (lip incompetence)
  • Narrow, V-shaped jaw arches
  • Crooked smile and/or nose
  • Small lower jaw
  • Poor definition between the neck and chin

Who is at Risk of Developing a Mouth Breather Face?

Both children and adults can be mouth breathers. An estimated 11 to 56% of children are mouth breathers.6

Sometimes, mouth breathing stops with age. Children and teens who continue mouth breathing often develop long face syndrome.

What Symptoms Can Occur with Mouth Breather Face?

Mouth breather face doesn’t only affect appearance; it also changes your muscles and bone structure, which can alter how you eat, speak, and breathe. People with mouth breather face might experience the following symptoms:

Misaligned Teeth

Malocclusion is more common in children with mouth breathing. Compared to nasal breathers, people who mouth breathe are more likely to experience the following:

Signs and symptoms of malocclusion may include:

Sleep Problems

Sleep Apnea

Breathing through the mouth and not the nose increases your risk for sleep apnea. This disorder occurs when you stop breathing for brief periods during sleep.

Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Waking up gasping for air
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth

Sleep Bruxism

Bruxism is the medical term for teeth grinding. Sleep bruxism, also known as nocturnal bruxism, occurs when you grind your teeth during sleep.

Signs and symptoms of sleep bruxism include:

  • Worn-down tooth surfaces
  • Soreness in the jaw, face, head, and neck
  • Unexplained loose, chipped, or cracked teeth

Poor Posture

The muscle imbalance caused by mouth breathing can affect your posture. Many people with ‘mouth breather face’ have a forward head posture. This causes the neck to lean forward instead of holding the head up straight.

Over time, ‘mouth breather face’ can lead to the development of a hunched upper back (dowager hump).

How to Fix Mouth Breather Face

Treatment for mouth breather face depends on when it’s diagnosed and its underlying cause. 

Treatment for Children

‘Mouth breather face’ is easiest to treat in childhood while the child’s facial structures are still developing. Treatment typically focuses on correcting the underlying problem.

For example, dental surgeons can treat nasal obstructions by surgically removing enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Tongue tie is easy to treat with a simple laser surgery called a frenectomy. 

After a dental professional corrects mouth breathing, the child’s face will develop normally as they grow. Older children might benefit from surgery combined with orthodontic treatment, such as:

  • Braces or clear aligners
  • Palatal expanders
  • Headgear

Treatment for Adults

After the jaw bone finishes growing, usually in the mid-teens to early adulthood, fewer treatment options are available. Although surgery to clear a nasal obstruction can treat mouth breathing, it won’t alter the face’s shape.

Older teens and adults may need jaw surgery to correct mouth breather face.

4 Tips to Stop Mouth Breathing and Improve Nasal Breathing

If you notice you are mouth breathing more than 25 to 30% of the time, it may be time to intervene.6 Here are four simple ways to switch from mouth breathing to nasal breathing:

1. Practice Mindful Breathing Exercises 

Most of the time, people don’t think about their breathing. Taking time each day to focus on deep, mindful nasal breathing can produce many overall health benefits, including:

  • Less stress
  • Better sleep
  • Improved athletic performance

Practicing mindful breathing will train your body to transition to nasal breathing. Yoga classes often include breathing exercises (pranayama) that can help with this.

2. Keep Your Nasal Airways Clear

If nasal congestion causes you to mouth breathe, talk to your doctor or dentist about treatment options. They will determine if you need medication, at-home remedies, or different treatments to clear your nasal airways.

3. Try Myofunctional Therapy

Myofunctional therapy involves exercises that strengthen facial and tongue muscles. Strong facial and tongue muscles help keep the mouth closed so you can breathe through the nose.

4. Visit Your Dentist

Even with your best efforts at nasal breathing, mouth breathing might not go away. Your face and jaw structure finish growing before you reach adulthood, and professional intervention may be necessary.

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Summary

  • Mouth breathing can affect the formation of facial and jaw bones, causing a ‘mouth breather face’ to develop.
  • ‘Mouth breather face’ is also known as an adenoid face, long face syndrome, and facial hyper divergence.
  • Mouth breather face can affect daily activities like eating, speaking, and breathing.
  • Children who receive early treatment for mouth breather face will develop normally as they grow older.
  • Older teens and adults may need orthodontic or surgical treatment for ‘mouth breather face’.
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on November 28, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Ruth, A. “The health benefits of nose breathing.” Nursing in General Practice, 2022.
  2. Basheer, B., et al. “Influence of Mouth Breathing on the Dentofacial Growth of Children: A Cephalometric Study.” Journal of International Oral Health, 2014.
  3. Surtel, A., et al. “The Influence of Breathing Mose on the Oral Cavity.” Polski Merkur Lekarsi, 2015.
  4. Zhao, Z., et al. “Effects of mouth breathing on facial skeletal development in children: a systemic review and meta-analysis.” BMC Oral Health, 2021.
  5. Zheng, W., et al. “Facial morphological characteristics of mouth breathers vs. nasal breathers: A systematic review and meta-analysis of lateral cephalometric data.” Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, 2020.
  6. Lin, L., et al. “The impact of mouth breathing on dentofacial development: A concise review.” Frontiers in Public Health, 2022.
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