Mouth Breathing Facts
Can mouth breathing be hurting my health?
nose is designed to act as a natural filter and humidifier for the air we
breathe. When the body is unable to take in an adequate amount of air through
the nose, the mouth begins to take over. Healthy individuals may temporarily
switch to oral respiration when their nasal passages become blocked due to a
cold, or during strenuous exercise when the body's demand for oxygen increases.
A chronic mouth breather inhales and exhales primarily through their mouth
regardless of their activity.
Chronic Mouth Breathing Health Effects
breathing is caused by many factors, including chronic allergies,
sinus trouble, or enlarged tonsils. Once the habit is established,
it may continue even after the initial obstruction is successfully
treated. The condition typically can be seen at an early age and
it's estimated to affect as much as 40% of the population. Despite
this high prevalence, the health care field historically has not
given much attention to the many problems caused by habitual mouth
breathing, and the many ways it can impact a person's quality of
- Poor sleep quality
Not breathing well
through the nose can reduce an individual's quality of sleep and
may aggravate existing sleep apnea. Not sleeping well can cause
tiredness and lack of concentration during the day, and in
children may result in poor academic performance and behavioral
problems similar to ADHD.
- Bad breath and gum disease
found a significant association between halitosis (bad breath)
and chronic mouth breathing. The development of bad breath is
thought to be due to the drying of the lining of the mouth,
which reduces saliva flow and causes an increase in
odor-producing bacteria. This proliferation of bacteria is also
a major factor in the progression of gum disease.
- Postural changes
Mouth breathing can
result in an altered position of the head, shoulders, and spine
as the body makes adaptations necessary to keep the airway open.
Forward head posture, elevated shoulders, increased curvature of
the spine, and tilting of the pelvis are all common traits found
to be associated with this form of respiration.
Loud snoring is one of the
primary characteristics mouth breathers exhibit during sleep.
Snoring can both interfere with an individual's quality as well
as cause relationship difficulties with whoever shares the
bedroom with the offending party.
- Changes in face shape and appearance
Yosh Jefferson, a New Jersey orthodontist and author of recent
report in the journal General Dentistry, notes that over time,
children whose mouth breathing goes untreated may suffer from
abnormal facial and dental development, such as long, narrow
faces, gummy smiles, and misaligned teeth. Other alterations in
facial appearance seen include an anterior open bite, incomplete
lip closure, and dark under eye circles.
- Diminished sense of smell
Our sense of
smell is one of the five ways we interact with our environment
and plays an important role in our behavior, emotions, memory,
and many nervous system functions. The olfactory receptors
responsible for this sense are located in the nose, so breathing
in air through the mouth reduces our ability to perceive smells.
A diminished sense of smell can cause disturbances in appetite
and interfere with normal feelings of satiety after eating,
which may create complications for individuals struggling with
- Compromised immune system
Your nose is
equipped with a number of safeguards to protect the sensitive
tissue of the respiratory tract from the environment. Breathing
through the mouth bypasses the nose's natural defenses against
germs, allergens, and other pollutants. Nitric oxide gas,
produced by the nose, and inhaled only with air breathed through
the nasal passageways, has the ability to kill bacteria, viruses
and other germs.
- Decreased oxygen delivery
Air is exhaled
through the mouth faster than through the nose. Nose breathing
creates back pressure that keeps the lungs inflated longer and
allows the body to better extract oxygen from the air we breathe
in. Mouth breathing poses less resistance and can lead to areas
of poor ventilation in the lungs. Additionally, the nitric oxide
in the air inhaled through the nose significantly enhances your
lung's capacity to absorb oxygen.
- Breathing unconditioned air
through the nose warms and humidifies the air before it reaches
your lungs, whereas breathing through the mouth does not offer
the same benefit. Breathing unconditioned air can affect the
sensitive tissue of the airway, particularly for individuals who
live in cold, dry climates. Taking cold air into your lungs
without allowing your nose to warm it causes the airways to
constrict so breathing becomes more difficult.
- Exacerbation of asthma symptoms
published in 2008 showed that mouth breathing reduced lung
function and initiated asthma symptoms in subjects with mild
asthma. Nasal breathing is also thought to provide a protective
influence against exercise induced asthma.
Have you experienced any of these effects? This
can be corrected with proper diagnosis and treatment of the airway.
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