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Why Mouth Breathing is Bad for Your Health

Mouth breathing is often viewed as a negative trait in social settings. But it has some negative effects on health. So if you are a mouth breath or you know someone who does, maybe a friend or loved one, here’s what they and you should know about mouth breathing.

Photo credit: By Paolese


When should you breathe through your mouth?

When you breathe, you provide your body with oxygen. This is because your body needs a lot of oxygen to survive. Breathing also allows you to expel carbon dioxide and waste.

Air gets into your lungs through two passageways: the nose and the mouth. Many healthy people breathe through both their nose and their mouth.

Breathing through the mouth should not be a regular act. It should be done only when you have nasal congestion may be due to a cold or allergies. Mouth breathing also helps during strenuous exercise to help get oxygen to your muscles faster.

Whatever the case, if you breathe through your mouth all the time, even when sleeping, you may be at risk of certain health problems.

Mouth breathing in children may cause facial deformities, crooked teeth, or even poor growth. Chronic mouth breathing in adults causes bad breath and gum disease. It also worsens symptoms of other ailments.


What are the advantages of nasal breathing (breathing through your nose)?

Many people are oblivious of the importance of their nose — well, yes, until you have a cold — a horrible one. A stuffed nose can reduce the quality of life that you’re living. It also distorts your sleep and function in general.

Our nose produces nitric oxide. Nitric oxide, in turn, helps your lungs to absorb more oxygen. Nitric oxide enhances oxygen transport throughout the body, including the heart. It causes the relaxation of vascular smooth muscle and allows dilation of the blood vessels.

It is also worth mentioning that nitric oxide has antiviral, antifungal antibacterial, and antiparasitic properties. It enhances immune function and helps it to fight infections.


What are the negative effects of mouth breathing?

You see, our nostrils and other nasal passages are naturally designed to prepare air before pushing it into the lungs. For instance, our sinuses act as humidifiers that warm and moisten the air, remove debris, and protect the respiratory system against bad microbes. Also, our nasal passages promote the infusion of air with nitric oxide, which our bodies require for various functions, including dilation of the blood vessels. Nitric oxide also plays a vital role inside the body’s cells. For example, it influences platelet function, immunity, and the nervous system. It is also involved in homeostasis as well as the regulation of mitochondrial functions in our cells.


A 2011 study by Lunn and Craig reports that mouth-breathing adults are more likely to experience sleep-disordered breathing, decreased productivity, fatigue, and poorer quality of life than those who breathe through their noses. Studies have also suggested that breathing through the mouth can cause chronic health problems by limiting the nitric oxide concentration in the blood.

Medical researchers and experts have also reported that mouth breathing can affect facial features in a child while contributing to jaw alignment issues. This is because the affected individual will attempt to position their jaw to inhale more oxygen.

Mouth breathing also causes bad breath and other dental conditions. Why? Well, mouth breathing promotes dry mouth, and dry mouth makes a fertile breeding ground for bacteria.

Photo credit: By Axel Kock

How to know whether you are breathing through the mouth

Many mouth breathers may not realize that they breathe through their mouth, especially when they are asleep. Mouth breathers usually experience the following symptoms:

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Dry mouth
  • Snoring
  • Brain fog
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Hoarseness
  • Dark circles under eyes
  • In children, the symptoms may include:
  • Dry, cracked lips
  • Large tonsils
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Slower growth rate
  • Increased nighttime crying episodes
  • Problems concentrating at school

Note that children who have problems concentrating at school are often misdiagnosed with hyperactivity or attention deficit disorder.


Treatment for mouth breathing

Treatment for this condition depends on the cause. For example, nasal congestion caused by colds and allergies can be treated with medications such as antihistamines, nasal decongestants, and over-the-counter steroid nasal sprays.

Applying adhesive strips to the nose bridge can also help to breathe. For example, applying a nasal dilator (a stiff adhesive strip) across the nostrils decreases airflow resistance and facilitates easy breathing through the nose.

Your healthcare provider may recommend wearing a face mask appliance during bedtime for people with obstructive sleep apnea. This appliance is known as continuous positive air pressure therapy (CPAP).

The CPAP device allows the flow of air into your nose and mouth via a mask. The pressure of the air prevents the collapse or blockage of your airways.

For children, mouth breathing can be treated by surgical removal of swollen adenoids or tonsils.


Outlook — Mouth breathing can lead to health issues

Timely treatment of mouth breathing in children can prevent or reduce its impact on dental and facial development. Children who have been treated usually show great improvements in behavior, energy levels, growth, and academic performance.

Mouth breathing, if left untreated, can lead to gum disease and tooth decay. In addition, poor sleep due to mouth breathing exacerbates stress and reduces your quality of life.

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