The Dangers of Mouth Breathing

In the 1800’s there was a lawyer from Pennsylvania named George Catlin. But the law was George’s job, not his passion, by any means.  George loved to draw, paint portraits and to be out in nature. So, one day Mr. Catlin decided to give up his law practice and travel west, into the wild frontier, to explore and paint portraits of the people he met along the way. George was very fond of the Native American tribes, and he loved to visit with them and paint their portraits. He did this countless times during his years of visiting with numerous tribes.

As an astute artist, Mr. Catlin was also extremely observant and gave great attention to detail.  As a result, he noticed a common theme among all the indigenous peoples that he met: most all of them had perfect airways. Their faces were large, strong, symmetrical-beautiful. They had prominent cheekbones and strong lower jaws, as well as large nasal passages. Their smiles were wide and not only did they have all their teeth (wisdom teeth included), but there was room for them as well. They were not crowded.  They were fit, had energy, and did not suffer from allergies and many of the ailments that were common among his peers in the Eastern United States.  

In some ways their diet was different than that of modern “civilization” as well. Instead of softer foods they ate hard things, nutrient-rich foods, meat. Their babies were breastfed but as soon as they had teeth, they were fed the same foods as the adults-things that they had to really chew.

It was ingrained into the parents (from the previous generation) and to the children where to place the tongue, to keep their lips closed and to always breathe through the nose.

George could not help but draw comparisons between these groups of people and those from where he was from. He had stumbled across a major key in determining longevity and health, and he wanted to share it with everyone. It was then that Mr. Catlin was inspired to write the aptly named book, Shut Your Mouth and Save Your Life.

In this illustrated book, he detailed the harm that is done from mouth breathing and steps a person could take to correct this habit and begin to turn their health around. For a time, this book influenced the field of orthodontics but later it became one of the seminal influences that eventually beget the field of myofunctional therapy.

Here we are a hundred and fifty years later and we are re-discovering a truth that was assumed long ago. One that has been known for thousands of years:

Airway Matters Most

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