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Why Mouth Breathing Is A Habit You Need To Stop

Being an involuntary action, most people rarely spare a minute or two to think about how or how often they are breathing. Breathing provides your body with the oxygen it needs to survive. It also allows you to release carbon dioxide and waste. The nose and the mouth are the two air passageways to the lungs. A person will typically take air in an out through their nose.

Breathing through the mouth only can help during strenuous physical activity to allow more oxygen to your muscles faster. In addition, it becomes necessary when you have nasal congestion due to a cold or allergy.

Mouth breathing, when it becomes a habit especially during rest, can affect one’s oral health and cause other serious complications. In children, it can cause facial deformities, crooked teeth, or poor growth. Adult chronic mouth breathers, on the other hand, may suffer gum disease, bad breath, and experience worse symptoms of their other illnesses.

Breathing Through Your Nose: Why It Matters

Using your nose to breath often goes unnoticed – until you have a bad cold. Dealing with a stuffed-up nose can affect your daily activities. Even your ability to sleep well can be compromised. This part of your body produces nitric oxide, which enhances the lungs’ ability to absorb oxygen. This substance improves the way oxygen is transported throughout the body, including inside the heart.

Nitric oxide also allows blood vessels to dilate and relaxes vascular smooth muscle. It is antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, and antiparasitic. It plays an important role in your body’s immune system, helping fight infections.  

Some of the advantages of nose breathing include:

  • Add resistance to the air stream to increase oxygen uptake by keeping the elasticity of the lungs.
  • The nose warms up cold air to body temperature before it enters your lung.
  • The nose adds moisture to the air to prevent dryness in the bronchial tubes and lungs.
  • The nose filters and retains small particles in the air, including pollen.

How To Know If You Are Breathing Through Your Mouth

Some people may not realize that they are using their mouth to breath instead of their nose, especially while they sleep. Mouth breathers may have the following symptoms:

  • dry mouth
  • dental caries
  • snoring
  • hoarseness
  • bad breath (halitosis)
  • brain fog
  • chronic fatigue
  • dark circles under the eyes
  • waking up tired and irritable

Mouth Breathing In Children

Since a child may not be able to communicate their symptoms properly, parents should look for signs of mouth breathing in their kids. Like adults, kids who breathe through their mouth tend to snore when sleeping. For those who breathe with their mouth open most of the day, some of these symptoms may occur:

  • large tonsils
  • daytime sleepiness
  • irritability
  • slower than the normal growth rate
  • daytime sleepiness
  • increased crying episodes at night

Children who show problems focusing at school are often misdiagnosed with hyperactivity or attention deficit disorder (ADD).

Causes

Obstructed (partially or completely blocked) nasal airway is the usual culprit of most cases of mouth breathing. This means that there could be something preventing the smooth passage of air into the nose. If your nose is congested, the body automatically resorts to the only remaining way that it can get oxygen – through the mouth.

Several risk factors and health conditions can cause mouth breathing. Here are some examples:

  • asthma
  • allergies
  • enlarged adenoids and tonsils
  • sinus polyps
  • history of finger of thumb-sucking
  • chronic colds
  • birth abnormalities, such as cleft palate, choanal atresia, or Pierre Robin syndrome
  • deviated nasal septum

Stress and anxiety can also cause a person to breathe through their mouth instead of their nose. Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system leading to shallow, rapid, and abnormal breathing. Another potential cause is tongue tie, in which the tongue is tethered in the mouth more than usual. An individual with this condition may have difficulty moving the tongue.

A study suggests mouth breathing can worsen exercise-induced asthma. This happens because it prevents the breath from getting moist or warm, both of which aid in reducing airway irritation. Those who have a history of sleep apnea may experience worse symptoms by mouth breathing. Chronic mouth breathing can cause them to have their mouth and jaw in a position that does not support breathing. As a result, they may have difficulty getting a good night’s sleep. Individuals with this condition may require a continuous positive airway pressure mask that is larger than a nasal CPAP option.

Diagnosis

It is important to determine the character and type of mouth breathing, since such information will greatly influence the treatment. There are two types – habitual or obstructive. A habitual mouth breather often is unaware of his habit and may deny if he is suspected directly. This person typically performs mouth breathing at night when he or she is unaware of it.

The other type is obstructive mouth breathing. This is rarely denied and is usually the patient’s primary complaint. In both instances, careful clinical testing is necessary to determine whether mouth breathing does exist, and if so, to what degree.

Treatment

Monitor yourself or your child for mouth breathing and/or an open mouth resting posture. Determine how often you encounter breathing or airway issues, or if you’ve had them in the past. Dentists can help diagnose the condition as they’re usually the first ones to see signs of mouth breathing, such as bad breath and dry mouth. You may also consider visiting a doctor who specializes in sleep and breathing.

Treatment depends upon the condition’s underlying cause. If the cause is huge tonsils, then surgically removing them may help correct the condition. Taking medications such as antihistamines, anti-inflammatory nasal sprays, and decongestants for a short period may ease irritation. In addition, attending sessions with a physical therapist may help retrain your body to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth.

Mouth breathing shouldn’t be taken lightly as it can affect not just your teeth and gums, but your facial features and overall health as well. It is a highly treatable condition, so do not hesitate to seek treatment. The earlier it is treated, the less likely you are to experience chronic and long-term complications.