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International Journal of Dental Hygiene - Early View - now available.


Despite expansion of the scope of practice and clinical responsibilities of dental hygienists since 1945, the degrees granted for dental hygiene remain the same. 


Today, an associate's degree requires 60 credits. Descriptive statistics revealed that 2-year dental hygienists in 1945 completed the equivalent of 112 contact hours compared to 157 contact hours for associate degree dental hygienists today, a difference of 45 contact hours. Bachelor degree dental hygienists complete 170 contact hours, a difference of 13 contact hours more than associate degree dental hygienists today.  


Dental hygiene education in community colleges today far surpasses the associate degrees granted and should be recognized at the baccalaureate level.


Human beings are designed to be nose breathers.  For a variety of reasons, some people become mouth breathers, leading to serious consequences. The nose and mouth have different functions.  Each nostril functions independently and synergistically to filter, warm, moisturize, dehumidify and to smell the air. It’s like having two noses in one. Breathing through the mouth provides none of the benefits of nose breathing and instead puts the person at risk for a long list of adverse effects. The problems associated with mouth breathing begin in the mouth by changing the tongue rest position, thus changing the normal growth pattern of the palate, both maxillary and mandibular jaws and the airway.

Inadequate skeletal growth leads to crowded teeth, a high vaulted palate and abnormal occlusion, called the Long Face Syndrome. In mouth breathers, the tongue rests down and forward, not in the palate as it should, leading to tongue thrust, abnormal swallowing habits and speech problems. A significant consequence of mouth breathing is reduced oxygen absorption leading to a cascade of sleep, stamina, energy level and ADHD problems. Dryness of the oral and pharyngeal tissues from mouth breathing leads to inflamed tonsils, tonsil stones, dry cough, swollen tongue, halitosis, gingivitis and caries. Mouth breathers chew with their mouths open, swallowing air, leading to gas, bloating, flatulence and burping. Lips become flaccid with mouth breathing because they don’t close regularly to provide the necessary lip seal.     

Many misconceptions about mouth breathing persist today. In some circles, mouth breathing and nose breathing are thought to be equivalent and in athletics, mouth breathing is still assumed to be better than nose breathing. Assuming that mouth breathing and nose breathing are no different ignores basic physiologic facts about the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Today professional athletic teams are being coached to train with their mouths closed, focusing on nose breathing to increase endurance, stamina and muscle memory. Another misconception is assuming more oxygen is absorbed with a big inhale through the mouth doesn’t take into consideration the fact that oxygen is absorbed on the exhale, not the inhale. Sleep medicine writings assume mouth breathing and sleep apnea are not connected, which is not supported by scientific evidence. Mouth breathing and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are connected.

Dental professionals are in a perfect position to evaluate mouth and nose breathing, check for tongue rest position and intervene early with young children to assure normal skeletal development and help mouth breathers of all ages become nose breathers. Understanding the physiology of breathing is essential.

Coming next:  The physiology of breathing


Class Schedule

Class 6A-20 - four spots open  

Time:  Sundays at 11:30 AM Eastern Time,  4:30 PM UK Time

Start Date:  Sunday, June 28th

Instructors:  Tim Ives and Trisha O'Hehir

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