Breathing is, obviously, an essential function of life. Oxygen goes in, carbon dioxide goes out. Interestingly enough, one of the two passageways to your lungs you use to breathe — your nose or your mouth — makes a huge difference in your health and quality of life. If you’re finding yourself using your mouth more than your nose, you might be asking yourself, why do I breathe through my mouth instead of my nose? Keep reading to learn more about mouth breathing vs nasal breathing, causes, symptoms to look for, risk factors, long-term health effects, and how to start correcting your mouth breathing issue today.

Mouth Breathing vs Nasal Breathing: What’s the Difference?

The difference between mouth breathing vs nasal breathing is not as simple as it may seem. Although, the main (and obvious) difference is which airway you use to get oxygen to your lungs. While they both do the job of filling your lungs and keeping you alive, nose breathing is the healthier way of accomplishing this. Shockingly, however, according to a recent survey, a staggering 71 percent of beds across America are host to a mouth breather.

Why Nose Breathing is Important

There are several reasons nose breathing is important and why it is the preferred method over mouth breathing. These include:

  • The nose acts as a filter and retains small particles in the air, including pollen, making the air that enters your lungs cleaner.
  • The nose adds moisture to the air to prevent dryness in the lungs and bronchial tubes, which helps prevent hoarseness and sore throat.
  • The nose warms up cold air to body temperature before it gets to your lungs.
  • Nose breathing adds resistance to the air stream. This increases oxygen uptake by maintaining the lungs’ elasticity.
  • The nose produces nitric oxide, which improves your lungs’ ability to absorb oxygen and gives you a better, more restful sleep.
  • Nitric oxide increases the ability to transport oxygen throughout your body, including inside your heart.
  • It relaxes vascular smooth muscle and allows blood vessels to dilate.
  • Nitric oxide is also antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitic, and antibacterial. It helps the immune system to fight infections, keeping you healthier.
  • Breathing through your nose helps the facial muscles and bones develop correctly, which also helps develop straight teeth.
  • Breathing through the nose reduces snoring, which leads to better sleep and a better quality of life.

Causes of Mouth Breathing

The leading cause of mouth breathing is that something is obstructing the airway in the nose. The obstruction then forces the body to go into survival mode. Since the preferred method is blocked, the body must choose the other route to get to the lungs, which is by the mouth.

Some causes for nasal obstruction include:

  • Nasal congestion caused by a cold, allergies, or sinus issues
  • Enlarged tonsils
  • Deviated septum
  • Nasal polyps
  • Natural shape of the nose
  • Natural shape of the jaw and face
  • Enlarged adenoids or turbinates

In addition to an obstruction blocking the nasal passage, stress and anxiety can cause you to breathe through your nose. This is because stress causes abnormal breathing. If you do not have a nasal obstruction, making simple lifestyle changes to lower your stress could fix a lot of your mouth breathing issues.

Symptoms of Mouth Breathing

If you do not have a partner to tell you that you are a mouth breather while you sleep, how else would you know? Luckily, there are several symptoms related to mouth breathing and, if you have any or most of them, you are likely a mouth breather.

Symptoms of mouth breathing include:

  • Snoring
  • Waking up with a dry mouth
  • Feeling tired when waking up for the day
  • Feeling irritable when waking up for the day
  • Bad breath
  • Hoarse voice
  • Fatigue that can last all day
  • Dark circles or bags under the eyes
  • Weight gain
  • High-stress levels
  • Insomnia
  • Waking frequently at night
  • Urinating frequently at night

Mouth Breathing in Children

Mouth breathing in children can lead to a host of long-term complications such as an abnormal facial structure, overbite, poor performance in school, poor posture, and much more. Symptoms of mouth breathing in children include:

  • Frequent nighttime crying episodes
  • Dry or cracked lips
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Frequent complaints about daytime sleepiness
  • Tonsil issues
  • Slower than the average growth rate
  • Poor posture
  • Issues with concentrating or paying attention in school
  • Hyperactivity
  • Sleep apnea in children

When is it OK to be Mouth Breathing?

If you catch yourself breathing through your mouth every now and again, there might not be a need to run immediately to a doctor. In some situations, mouth breathing is perfectly normal. Instances in which mouth breathing is OK include when you are sick and have nasal congestion due to a cold or allergies or during strenuous exercise.

However, if you frequently breathe through your mouth and do not have nasal congestion or are in the middle of strenuous activity, it is essential that you seek help.

Risk Factors for Mouth Breathing

Anybody can suffer from chronic mouth breathing. However, there are certain factors that can put you at greater risk. Sometimes, treating these underlying risk factors can be just the thing to help you with your mouth breathing. The risk factors for mouth breathing include:

  • Weight
  • Asthma
  • Chronic, untreated allergies
  • Suffering from hay fever
  • Recurring sinus infections
  • High levels of stress

What Are The Long Term Ill Effects Of Mouth Breathing?

There are many health issues associated with mouth breathing. If left untreated, they can lead to poor quality of life. It is surprising to know that something as simple as the way you breathe can lead to such serious health complications. However, if you are a mouth breather, you can likely look forward to these long-term issues:

  • Poor oral health. Breathing through the mouth is drying, and there is not enough saliva to wash away harmful bacteria. This can lead to chronic halitosis (also known as bad breath), tooth decay, cavities, gum disease, gingivitis, and infections in the ear and throat.
  • Physical abnormalities. Breathing through the mouth can cause poor resting posture in the face. This can cause the face structure to change. Physical changes include a long, narrow face, overbite, gummy smile, crowded and crooked teeth, and poor back and shoulder posture.
  • Sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a severe condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts and can lead to a host of other health complications.
  • Daytime sleepiness and fatigue. Mouth breathing does not provide the same quality of oxygen that nasal breathing provides. As such, mouth breathing at night will lead to daytime fatigue which can cause issues at school, work, in relationships, and slow growth in children.
  • Weight gain. Without proper oxygen, the body can quickly gain weight as a side effect of mouth breathing and sleep apnea. Obesity can lead to issues such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and much more.

Mouth Breathing Face Structure

As mentioned, one of the long-term effects of mouth breathing is physical abnormalities. It is one of the most surprising details regarding mouth breathing vs nasal breathing. Mouth breathing can cause structural changes to your face, especially if the mouth breathing begins as a child.

These craniofacial changes are the result of poor tongue and jaw resting posture. Over time, the muscles in the face will settle into the unnatural tongue and jaw resting place, causing these facial structure changes. With therapy, ongoing exercises, or even surgery in some cases, these changes can be reversed.

Tongue and Jaw Resting Posture

Correct natural tongue and jaw resting posture doesn’t just affect how your face looks. It can make all the difference in your quality of life, how you feel, and your ongoing health. The correct posture includes:

  • The tip of the tongue should rest behind the top front teeth
  • The top of the tongue should press against the roof of the mouth
  • Lips together
  • Teeth slightly apart
  • Jaw joint should be relaxed

If you rest your tongue on the bottom of your mouth or up against your teeth, this is improper tongue positioning. Bad tongue positioning can lead to:

  • Dental issues such as crowding, grinding, or decay
  • Neck pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Flatter face shape
  • TMJ
  • Bad posture
  • Sleep apnea

Can A Mouth Breather Become A Nose Breather?

The good news about mouth breathing is that it does not have to be permanent. A mouth breather can become a nose breather, and, depending on your situation, you can be treated for mouth breathing.

Treatment for mouth breathing includes:

  • Nasal decongestant
  • Wearing a dental appliance to widen the palate
  • Removal of the nasal obstruction
  • Treatment for sleep apnea
  • Surgical removal of tonsils
  • Braces or other orthodontic procedures

Myofunctional Therapy

Myofunctional Therapy is a type of treatment to help disorders of the muscles and functions of the face and mouth. Since OMD’s are essentially muscle weaknesses of the face, performing strength exercises can help improve them. Much like exercises of any other part of the body, the more you do it, the stronger you will become. Through these exercises, the tongue will move into a more natural and normal resting posture which will help in many areas.

How To Stop Mouth Breathing While Sleeping At Night?

You can make some lifestyle changes to help stop or reduce mouth breathing while sleeping at night, especially when you are suffering from allergies or a cold. These include:

  • Ongoing treatment regimen for allergies
  • Treatment for a cold at the first sign or symptoms
  • Sleeping with your head slightly elevated
  • Regularly changing out your home’s air conditioning filters
  • Regularly washing your sheets, vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning
  • Practicing Myofunctional Therapy exercises
  • Using an air filter or air purifier in your bedroom
  • Wearing a dental appliance at night
  • Using a CPAP Machine

About Gorman Health and Wellness

If you or someone you love is a mouth breather and it is causing further health complications, there is something you can do about it. You do not need to live with the effects of mouth breathing any longer. Whether you suffer from craniofacial changes due to improper resting posture, TMJ issues, sleep apnea, or dental issues due to mouth breathing, we can help you.

Martin N. Gorman, D.D.S. is a highly trained practitioner with over 40 years of experience in dentistry. He specializes in the treatment of temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD), sleep disorders, and epigenetic orthodontics. He believes all of his patients should have an opportunity to achieve optimal dental health in a safe, caring, anxiety-free environment. He is committed to patient comfort.

Come in and enjoy an expert dental consultation absolutely free of charge, done in a way that is easy for you to understand. You will be given as much time as you need to think about your procedure. In addition, you will receive a cost estimate so that you know what will be done and the cost involved for treatment that works, guaranteed. We focus on finding and treating the cause of your problem, not just relieving the symptoms, as we employ a holistic approach to treatment with customized individual treatment plans.

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