THE HIDDEN DANGERS OF MOUTH BREATHING

How it Affects Your Health + What You Can Do About It

Mouth breathing

Are you a mouth breather? While you may not give it much thought, mouth breathing can significantly affect your overall health. The consequences of chronic mouth breathing are far-ranging, from affecting your dental health to your sleep quality.

If you or your child is a chronic mouth breather, don’t fret. You can take steps to correct this habit and restore nasal breathing. In this article, we will analyze mouth breathing, how it affects your health, and what you can do about it.  

Respiratory Issues

When you breathe through your nose, the air passes through nasal passages, which serve as a natural filtration system. When you breathe through your mouth, the air bypasses these nasal passages, causing the air you breathe in through your mouth not to be filtered or humidified, making it more likely to contain harmful particles and pathogens. As a result, mouth breathing can increase the risk of respiratory infections, such as colds, flu, and sinusitis.

Moreover, mouth breathing can contribute to the development or worsening of asthma. The constant exposure to allergens and pollutants can trigger asthma symptoms and exacerbations. Studies have shown that children who are chronic mouth breathers are more likely to develop asthma later in life.

In addition, mouth breathing can lead to chronic hyperventilation, where the breathing rate is faster and shallower than normal. This can disrupt the body’s balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide, leading to symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath, and fatigue.

To protect your respiratory health, addressing chronic mouth breathing and restoring nasal breathing is important. Doing so can improve the filtration and humidification of the air entering your respiratory system, reducing the risk of respiratory infections and asthma symptoms.

Sleep Problems Associated with Mouth Breathing

Mouth breathing can significantly impact your quality of sleep. When you breathe through your mouth while sleeping, the airway can collapse more easily, obstructing the airflow. Mouth breathing can cause repeated awakenings, interruptions to your sleep cycle, and sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.

In addition to sleep apnea, mouth breathing can contribute to other sleep-related issues, such as dry mouth, snoring, and teeth grinding. These problems can further disrupt sleep quality and lead to daytime sleepiness and fatigue.

To get a better night’s rest, it is important to restore nasal breathing during sleep. This can be achieved through various treatment options, such as nasal breathing devices, positional therapy, and lifestyle changes.

How Mouth Breathing Affects Facial Development

mouth breathing versus nose breathing and facial development

Image Source: Jaws: The Story of a Hidden Epidemic

Chronic mouth breathing can have long-term effects on facial development, especially in a child’s formative years. Studies show that 55% of kids are mouth breathers. When children breathe through their mouths instead of their noses, it can change the growth and structure of the face and jaws.

Mouth breathing can result in a narrow and elongated face with a high and narrow palate. This can affect the alignment of the teeth, leading to malocclusion (misaligned teeth) and orthodontic problems. It can also cause a retruded chin and a drooping lower lip, giving the face a less attractive appearance.

Addressing and correcting chronic mouth breathing early on is important to prevent or correct these facial development issues. Restoring nasal breathing and promoting proper tongue posture can help ensure proper facial growth and development.

Impact of Breathing on Dental Health

While most people associate oral health problems with poor dental hygiene, chronic mouth breathing can also play a significant role. When you breathe through your mouth, your saliva production decreases. Saliva plays a crucial role in maintaining oral health as it helps wash away food particles, neutralize acids, and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Without sufficient saliva, the risk of tooth sensitivity, tooth decay, gum disease, dry mouth, cavities, and bad breath increases.

Addressing the underlying cause of mouth breathing is important to protect dental health. Restoring nasal breathing can promote saliva production and ensure proper oral hygiene.

Diagnosing Mouth Breathing

Diagnosing chronic mouth breathing involves thoroughly evaluating the individual’s breathing patterns and symptoms. A healthcare professional, such as a dentist, orthodontist, or sleep specialist, can assess the presence and severity of mouth breathing.

During the evaluation, the healthcare professional will examine the individual’s oral cavity, teeth, and jaws, looking for signs of mouth breathing, such as high palatal vault, dental malocclusion, and abnormal facial structure. In addition to the physical examination, the healthcare professional may ask about symptoms related to mouth breathing, such as dry mouth, snoring, fatigue, and sleep disturbances. They may also consider the individual’s medical history, including any respiratory conditions or allergies.

Early intervention is crucial in children to prevent long-term complications and promote proper facial growth and development. Treatment options for children may include orthodontic intervention, myofunctional therapy, and nasal breathing exercises.

mouth breather

Tips for Transitioning to Nasal Breathing

Tips for Transitioning from Mouth to Nasal Breathing
Shifting from chronic mouth breathing to nasal breathing may take time and practice. Here are some guidelines to help facilitate the transition:

Practice nasal breathing exercises

Start by consciously focusing on breathing through your nose during activities such as walking or relaxing. Deep breathing exercises can help strengthen the nasal passages and improve nasal airflow.

Keep your nasal passages clear

Use a saline nasal spray or nasal irrigation to keep your nasal passages moisturized and clear of congestion. This can help improve nasal breathing and reduce the urge to mouth breathe.

Address any underlying respiratory conditions

If you have allergies or sinusitis, seek appropriate treatment to reduce nasal congestion and inflammation. This can help improve nasal breathing and reduce the need for mouth breathing.

Practice good oral hygiene

Maintain proper dental care by brushing your teeth at least twice daily, flossing regularly, and visiting your dentist for regular check-ups. Good oral hygiene can help prevent dental issues associated with mouth breathing.

Seek professional guidance

Consult with a breathing coach to help you return to a functional breathing pattern.  

Conclusion + Importance of Functional Breathing

Chronic mouth breathing can have significant implications for overall health. It can lead to respiratory infections, dental problems, anxiety, sleep disorders, and facial development issues. Addressing and correcting chronic mouth breathing can improve overall health and wellness.

functional breathing

Remember, restoring nasal breathing may take time and practice. But with persistence and the right support, you can overcome chronic mouth breathing and enjoy the benefits of proper nasal breathing. The first step towards better health is addressing and correcting chronic mouth breathing today.

If you seek to optimize and achieve a deeper understanding of your breathing, feel free to email me with any questions or uncertainties you may have.

If you’re looking for more individualized exercises tailored to your breathing style, consider scheduling a one-on-one Breathing Assessment with me! Click here for more information about the assessment.

Stephanie Esser Breathing Coach
MA.Ed., Certified BREATHE™ Coach, RYT200, Yoga Calm® Youth Instructor I help kids surf the waves of life, one breath at a time!