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Many children in western society habitually breathe
through their mouths rather than through their noses.
This not only changes the structure of their faces to
make them more narrow and disproportionate but also
has many adverse health consequences. According to
several observers of adults and children in traditional
pre-industrial societies, mouth breathing is rare and
facial structure is almost universally characterised by a
broad palate, straight teeth and a complete absence of
the dental crowding and malocclusion so commonly
seen in today’s children. The 18th century ethnographer
George Catlin studied over 150 native American Indian
tribes, comprising two million people. Catlin is famous
for his 500 portraits of men, women and children
and colourful journals describing all aspects of native
American life. He also became known as a passionate
advocate for the importance of nasal breathing. His
book, The Breath of Life or Malrespiration and its Effects
upon the Enjoyment of Life of Man, expounds on this
topic and describes the diligence with which Native
American mothers ensured their children’s mouths
were closed, attributing their superb health and “total
absence of malformation of their beautiful sets of
teeth, scrupulously kept together by the lower jaws”
to this behaviour. Dr. Weston Price, a dentist from
Cleveland, Ohio, made similar observations after travelling
the world in the 1930’s and 1940’s examining
the diet, habits, health, teeth and facial structure of
over 12 different cultural groups both hunter-gatherer
and agricultural who lived pre-industrial lifestyles.
Fossil records suggest that the change in human facial
structure towards a narrower and less functional shape
began with the dawn of agriculture and increased after
the industrial revolution but that the most radical 

changes have been since the 19th century. In
modern western society mouth breathing is most prevalent
in children under the age of 13. After this age it
sometimes improves because of growth patterns in the
face which widen the airway. However it is important
to improve breathing habits and optimise the function
of the airway as early as possible in young children
because many of the detrimental changes brought
about by disordered breathing on structure, health and
cognitive function by disordered breathing can have
lasting consequences.