We all know someone who is a “mouth breather.” When they are staring off into space or focused on other things, their mouth is wide open and sometimes their breathing is audible.
Although “mouth breather” and asking someone “why the long face?” have been used as an insult before, they actually describe a very specific problem that can cause (or be caused by) some serious medical conditions.
People who are prone to mouth breathing over nose breathing may experience certain unwanted side effects, and they may also be a risk of Long Face Syndrome. Yes, this is an actual medical condition.
Long Face Syndrome is typically related to people who are chronic mouth breathers, although the development of this syndrome may also cause mouth breathing. The two are interwoven; fortunately, they can be treated with therapies, surgical treatments, or even nasal sprays.
Learn more about Long Face Syndrome and how switching to mouth breathing can improve your health.
What is Long Face Syndrome?
Long Face Syndrome refers to someone who has developed a longer and more narrow face due to issues with craniofacial growth or certain obstructions in their nasal passageways. In terms of physical appearance, Long Face Syndrome can include many different factors.
Research shows that common physical features of Long Face Syndrome include a gingival smile (this might look like excess gums above the teeth), a large chin, a narrow face, and a lack of definition between the neck and chin. Another feature includes what is referred to as a skeletal open bite.
This is a result of unbalanced muscle pressure on the jaw and leads to an opening between the two rows of teeth. Both rows of teeth may protrude outward. As facial growth adapts to braces, retainers, or other orthodontic interventions, the open bite may become more extreme.
Long Face Syndrome may also result in a relaxed facial position where the lips are open, mostly due to narrow nostrils that block airways. Younger patients can develop Long Face Syndrome if they cannot breathe through their nose, which leads them to breathe orally.
While this has been regarded as “no big deal” by medical professionals in the past, researchers are now starting to pay more attention to Long Face Syndrome and how it can be prevented in younger patients. Paying attention to mouth breathing, allergies, and the growth of the upper and lower jaw, doctors may be able to prevent a child from developing Long Face Syndrome.
These nasal blockages are often a result of severe allergies that obstruct the airways in the nose, naturally forcing patients to develop a habit of mouth breathing. The effects of this can include dry mouth, fatigue, poor sleep, and more. Mouth breathing, Long Face Syndrome, and the effects that may result are also associated with obstructive sleep apnea.
Does Mouth-Breathing Cause Long Face Syndrome?
Long Face Syndrome is also known as a skeletal open bite. This suggests that the skeleton itself is the cause of Long Face Syndrome. How that skeleton grows, however, depends on a few different factors.
Experts believe that genetics and environment can cause Long Face Syndrome; on one hand, you may not be able to prevent Long Face Syndrome. In other cases, mouth breathing or other habits that develop during craniofacial growth may exacerbate or even cause Long Face Syndrome.
Almost all of the causes and conditions of Long Face Syndrome are associated with mouth breathing. This includes nasal blockages, severe allergies, enlarged tonsils or adenoids, and more. Whether Long Face Syndrome causes mouth breathing or mouth breathing leads to Long Face Syndrome often depends on the patient, their history with allergies, their facial growth, and other factors.
What is important is how Long Face Syndrome and mouth breathing are handled. Mouth breathing doesn’t just cause Long Face Syndrome - it may also change how it affects the face in adulthood. These conditions may be preventable if not caused by skeletal growth. By reducing mouth breathing as a child or an adult, you may be able to reach a point where your relaxed facial position is closed and you can more comfortably breathe through the nose.
How to Stop Mouth Breathing & Improve Nose Breathing
For someone who has defaulted to mouth breathing their whole life, it feels easier said than done to stop mouth breathing. If you find yourself breathing through your mouth more than nasal breathing, you might want to consider switching up how you inhale and exhale.
1. Learn the benefits of nasal breathing (and practice it)
Nasal breathing doesn’t just affect the shape or functioning of your face. Mindfully making the switch to nasal breathing can improve athletic performance, improve the quality of oxygen entering your body, decrease stress, and improve your sleep.
These benefits alone might be enough to motivate you to stop when you catch yourself mouth breathing.
2. Be mindful of your breath
Mindfulness is the key to this switch. You can be mindful of your breath when you are on public transportation, watching TV, or driving a car. If you have a few minutes a day, consider practicing pranayama, or breathing exercises, that are taught in yoga.
Making a habit of deep, mindful breath can expand your lungs, benefit your health, and help you transition to nasal breathing.
3. Open up your airways
Congestion may be caused by many things, including infections, nasal polyp growth, or sinus swelling. All of this makes it very hard to breathe through your nose. Obstructions in your nasal passageways may also be caused by the expansion of blood vessels. Fortunately, you can seek treatments to thin those blood vessels and open up your nasal passageways.
Nasal inhalers, for example, help to shrink blood vessels and make way for air. All it takes is a quick inhale through the nose with BoomBoom to help eliminate airway obstructions in the nose.
4. Look into myofunctional therapy
Myofunctional therapy is a treatment used to strengthen the facial muscles and tongue. The idea behind this treatment is that a stronger face will not tire when the mouth is closed and the nose is doing all of the breathing.
Supporters of this therapy say that it can reduce obstructive sleep apnea, headaches, and other conditions commonly associated with mouth breathing. Reach out to a therapist in your area for an evaluation on whether myofunctional therapy can help you.
5. Reach out to dentists and medical professionals for treatment
Chronic mouth breathing may not go away on its own; by the time you reach adulthood, your skeleton may be set in place and an open bite will start to rear its ugly head. Open bites encourage mouth breathing, cause sleep apnea, increase your risk of TMD or TMJ, and may cause oral issues in the future.
Talk to your dentist about the best treatments for your open bite. They may refer you to an orthodontist who can walk you through the process of getting braces or undergoing orthognathic surgery for your open bite.
Surgical treatments sound extreme and should be considered as a last option for Long Face Syndrome. If you find yourself with your mouth wide open in a relaxed position, try first to make the switch to nasal breathing through mindfulness and allergy treatments. A medical professional can walk you through the next steps of the process once you have established that you need further treatments.