Mouth Breathing and Negative Impacts

Mouth breathing might seem harmless. Sure, your partner wakes you up multiple times through the night with their heavy snoring, or you have a sore throat every so often from the deep mouth breathing. But, what is the big deal? It can greatly impact your health. This is because mouth breathing is not the natural way we should be breathing. The body should only use mouth breathing as an emergency backup when the nose is otherwise clogged, such as when we are sick or have allergies. As such, if you or someone you love is consistently mouth breathing, this should be a cause for concern. Keep reading to learn more about the negative impacts of mouth breathing, signs and symptoms, how it impacts your health, and what you can start doing about it.

Understanding Mouth Breathing

Breathing is the body’s way of providing itself the oxygen needed to survive. There are two ways of doing this — through the nose and through the mouth. When the nose is clogged or blocked, the body automatically switches into survival mode and breathes through the mouth. This can cause the most classic symptom of mouth breathing: Snoring. However, it’s not always so easy to know you’re a mouth breather unless you have a partner who hits you with a pillow throughout the night.

Signs and Symptoms of Mouth Breathing include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Sore throat or hoarseness, especially upon waking
  • Feeling irritable after waking up
  • Fatigue throughout the day
  • Dark circles and/or bags under the eyes

Mouth Breathing in Children

It’s common for us to lovingly admire all of our children’s little quirks, such as how they eat or the funny way their hair sticks up. However, mouth breathing should not be one of these. In fact, mouth breathing can cause a host of other health issues. If your child is experiencing any of the below symptoms, take note and pay attention to how they breathe at night.

  • Slower than the normal growth rate
  • Dry, cracked lips
  • Daytime sleepiness and fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Frequent crying episodes at night
  • Large tonsils and other tonsil issues
  • Issues with performance at school, which can commonly be confused for ADHD
  • Sleep apnea

Understanding Nose Breathing

If there are two ways for the body to get oxygen, and through the mouth is one of them that works, then why is breathing through the nose so important? If you are a mouth breather or know someone who is, but you’re wondering what the big deal is, here are the benefits and reasons that breathing through your nose is the way that nature intended:

  • Nitric oxide. Here is your science lesson of the day: The nose produces nitric oxide, which increases the ability to transport oxygen through your body. When you breathe through your mouth, you lose out on the optimal transportation of oxygen through your body. Nitric oxide is also antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitic, and antibacterial. It also helps the immune system to fight infections. If you’re not breathing through your nose, you’re missing out on this gold.
  • Works as a filter. Your nose filters the air that comes into your lungs, such as pollen and other small particles. It also adds moisture to the air you breathe to prevent dryness in the lungs and bronchial tubes, keeping you healthy. When you breathe through your mouth, you do not have this same filter. All of the bad stuff gets into your lungs and airways, causing infections, bad breath, cavities, and much more.
  • Better working lungs. Thanks to the nitric oxide and filtering capabilities of the nose, your lungs are better able to move oxygen throughout your body. This means you’re sleeping better, thinking clearer, and are healthier overall. Better working lungs also mean you have higher energy levels, are better able to keep weight off, and have less fatigue throughout the day. When you breathe through your mouth, you miss out on all of these benefits.

What Causes Mouth Breathing?

At the end of the day, there is pretty much only one reason you would be breathing through your mouth, and that is because something is blocking your nose’s airways. It is totally normal for the nose’s airways to become temporarily blocked, such as if you are sick or have severe allergies. In these cases, breathing through your mouth until you are feeling better is totally normal and won’t lead to long-term issues. However, if you are sick for a long time, it can cause your body to learn how to mouth-breathe by default. As such, it is important to keep your nose decongested while you are sick.

Some other reasons your nose might be blocked include:

  • Enlarged adenoids or tonsils
  • Deviated septum
  • Nasal polyps
  • Anatomy issues, such as the shape of the nose or jaw
  • Tumors

There are some people who are at a higher risk of becoming mouth breathers than others. Some risk factors include:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic allergies
  • Recurring sinus infections
  • Obesity
  • Substance Use Disorder

Physical Negative Impacts of Mouth Breathing

Believe it or not, mouth breathing can actually change your physical appearance. This can be for many reasons, including:

  • Low oxygen levels. By not getting the benefits of breathing through your nose, the oxygen in your body is low and of less quality.
  • Muscles unnaturally compensate for other muscles. When you breathe through your mouth, it is an unnatural movement for the face. As such, your face has to adjust in order to accommodate the mouth breathing. The push and pull of muscles that weren’t intended to be moving in that way can cause changes to the face.
  • No filter. Since the nose acts as a filter, mouth breathing allows in those pesky particles. This can lead to infections and dental issues.
  • Sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a serious condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. This is caused by a blockage in the airway and can lead to other very serious health conditions.

Some of the physical changes that can occur due to mouth breathing include:

  • Bad breath
  • Gingivitis
  • Cavities
  • Throat infections
  • Ear infections
  • Narrow mouth appearance
  • Gummy smile
  • Poor posture
  • Weight gain

Emotional and Behavioral Negative Impacts of Mouth Breathing

One of the other negative impacts of mouth breathing includes emotional and behavioral changes. This is largely due to a lack of oxygen. The lack of oxygen running through the system due to mouth breathing can cause emotional and behavioral issues such as:

  • Irritability. If you or your loved one is constantly irritable and also experiencing other negative impacts of mouth breathing, it is important to seek treatment. Low oxygen levels decrease energy and can make you less happy.
  • ADHD. Low oxygen levels can cause children and adults to have shorter attention spans and be unable to concentrate or focus on one task for very long. ADHD associated with mouth breathing is also caused by poor sleep quality and fatigue.
  • Chronic fatigue. Most of us aren’t able to function too well before our morning coffee. However, if you find yourself drinking coffee throughout the day, napping, or not finding anything to help your chronic fatigue, check for other symptoms of mouth breathing.

Is Mouth Breathing Treatable?

The good news about mouth breathing is that it is a treatable condition. Removing the nasal blockage and learning how to breathe through your nose is the best course of treatment for most individuals suffering from mouth breathing.

Treatments for mouth breathing include:

  • Nasal decongestants. If you suffer from chronic allergies, regularly taking a nasal decongestant will help keep your mouth breathing at bay.
  • Breathing machines. Your doctor may also prescribe a CPAP machine to help deliver oxygen to your body at night while you sleep. In addition, you may also receive a dental apparatus to help keep your jaw in the right place, allowing better airflow through your nose.
  • Myofunctional Therapy. Myofunctional Therapy is an exercise to help your face readjust to breathing through the nose. Much like exercising any other part of the body, it is about strengthening muscles.
  • Surgery. In more severe cases, you may need surgery to remove the blockage in your nasal passages. This can include removing the tonsils, fixing a deviated septum, and more.

Tips for Mouth Breathers

If you are a mouth breather or live with someone who is, there are some easy things you can start doing today to create a better environment for nose breathing. This includes:

  • Sleeping with your head slightly elevated
  • Keeping your home clean and free of dust mites, dust bunnies, allergens, pollen, or dirt that can get tracked inside
  • Using saline mist frequently, especially while traveling
  • Taking nasal decongestants at the first sign or symptom of a cold or allergy
  • Using air filters and air purifiers throughout your home
  • Consciously practicing nose breathing so that your face and body can adjust

About Gorman Health and Wellness

One of the scariest things about mouth breathing is that it can lead to sleep apnea. Dr. Martin Gorman is a part of the breathing wellness movement, which aims to increase awareness and improve treatment for sleep-related airway conditions like sleep apnea. He has partnered with organizations focused on collaborating with dentists to apply the sciences of Craniofacial Epigenetics (the study of cranial modifications caused by gene expression as opposed to genetic code alteration) and Pneumopedics® (the practical application of oral appliance therapy and non-surgical airway remodeling) in the management of sleep apnea.

Together, the application of these sciences allows for underlying causes of airway obstruction to be treated in 98% of cases, resulting in a high success rate among sleep apnea patients. For every sleep apnea case at our practice, Dr. Gorman will gather patient data and determine the patient’s specific needs based on home sleep test results, dental impressions, CT scans, and images. Our state-of-the-art technology, paired with Dr. Gorman’s experience with sleep disorders, allows him to find the most effective treatment plan for each individual’s particular case, yielding improved daytime and nighttime breathing for the patient.

“I have been helping people suffering from Sleep Apnea with a non-invasive, clinically approved treatment method. This method has allowed my patients to sleep with far fewer events per hour allowing them to get rid of their CPAP and BiPAP machines. Imagine not having to use one of those machines, getting back a much greater quality of life along with the benefits of being able to breathe better.” – Dr. Gorman.

For more information on Dr. Gorman, improving your mouth breathing symptoms, and decreasing your chances for sleep apnea and snoring, contact us today.

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