Are Mouth Breathing and Attention Issues Related?

mouth breathing

What is mouth breathing? 

This is when an individual (infant, child, or adult) breathes through their mouth rather than their nose. (You can refer back to this blog post on why mouth breathing is not ideal.) The mouth may be open periodically through the day, at night, or both to be considered “mouth breathing.” Sometimes, lips may only be partially apart, making it more difficult to identify, while in other individuals the mouth is wide open. 

When an individual is mouth breathing, whether during the day, night, or both, this leads to symptoms that mimic attention deficit disorder. Millions of children across the US have been diagnosed with ADHD and research is now showing that perhaps, some of these children, have a root cause that may be surprising to some, mouth breathing. 

Current research shows that mouth breathing increases one’s risk of attention difficulties by 40-100%. SAY WHAT? Basically, there is a correlation and attention will most likely be affected, and yet, we have given a one-size-fits-all approach to these individuals by failing to assess them for root causes such as mouth breathing.

Less oxygen is delivered to the brain when someone breathes through their mouth as evidenced by this study. Prefrontal cortex function is reportedly associated with ADHD. In the same study, the authors hypothesized and proved that there would be differences in the prefrontal cortex function of mouth breathers vs. nasal breathers, “The hypothesis that mouth and nasal breathing give rise to different cerebral hemodynamic responses in the prefrontal cortex was corroborated in this study. We found that mouth breathing caused an increased oxygen load in the prefrontal cortex.“ 

Imagine this, a child is mouth breathing at night which leads to poor sleep which in turn leads to behaviors at school because they are tired, overly stimulated with lack of sleep, and these days most of these children are given stimulant medication(s). What if we flip the script, evaluate them for sleep disordered breathing, get them into a myo program, and have them work with an airway-focused dental/orthodontic expansion provider instead? Their whole life would change for the better. That’s why we are here, to change the narrative and help parents and individuals get to the root cause.