Mouth Breathing

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Oxygen is the human body's number one priority for life, and the mouth is a great emergency source for air when there is a nasal blockage. However, when mouth breathing becomes a habit, many health issues may follow. It is important to address nasal blockages and consider nasal breathing a powerful tool in preventive medicine. Mouth breathing is acceptable while under physical exertion lifting heavy loads, and absolutely necessary if a nasal blockage is present, but an effort should be made to breathe through the nose day and night. 

Causes of mouth breathing include:

  • Allergies/food sensitivities

  • Asthma

  • Chronic nasal congestion

  • Deviated septum

  • Enlarged tonsils/adenoids

  • Nasal polyps

  • Respiratory infection

What is wrong with mouth breathing?!

Mouth breathing may lead to:

  • headaches

  • periodontal disease

  • sore throat/cold symptoms

  • bad breath

  • increased risk of cavities

  • poor sleep->chronic fatigue->ADHD-like symptoms

  • digestive issues

Mouth breathing can affect the development of the face and jaw, altering physical appearances such as:

  • long/narrow face and mouth

  • less defined cheekbones

  • smaller lower jaw

  • weak chin

  • dental crowding

It also changes the position of the tongue during rest. Ideally, the tongue should rest along the roof of the mouth (the palate). Mouth breathing forces the tongue to sit low in the floor of the mouth, leading to the underdevelopment of oral musculature and possibly causing troubles with speech, chewing and swallowing.

The nose is anatomically designed for breathing. It is within our paranasal sinuses during nasal breathing that nitric oxide (NO) is produced. NO allows for better oxygen utilization in the body (up to 15% better in nasal breathers vs. mouth breathers!) and plays several important roles including decreasing blood pressure and inflammation in arteries, immune defense, memory and learning, and much more. NO can also help protect the gastric mucosal layer and decrease permeability of your GI tract. Mouth breathing can contribute to poor absorption of nutrients during the digestion process. Those who breathe through their mouths tend to have a stimulated sympathetic nervous system ("fight or flight" response) which encourages shallow breathing. Nasal breathing, on the other hand, stimulates the parasympathetic system ("rest and digest") and allows for deeper, more efficient breathing.

A myofunctional therapist can help you determine if further evaluation of airway is needed as well as assist in correcting poor breathing patterns.

For further reading...

Video from YouTube channel Aurora Kids Dentistry: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3aNEtadDZgkMXoYymFMQ9g