“As simple as breathing” is only an effective saying if breathing is simple. For some, breathing naturally is easier through the mouth. Unfortunately, the issues of mouth breathing are numerous and well-documented. Consider the following to have better breathing success.
What Are the Issues of Mouth Breathing?
The issues of mouth breathing are many and have various degrees of severity. For example, bad breath, though unpleasant, can be readily corrected. Other mouth breathing problems are far more serious and not so easily resolved.
One of the chief issues of mouth breathing is that it alters the acidity levels of saliva, modifying the mouth’s pH balance. Dramatic pH shifts make the mouth’s conditions more corrosive, leading to tooth decay and gum disease. The consistent airflow of mouth breathing reduces the sinus’ ability to add moisture to the air being inhaled. This results in dry mouth and a reduced ability to wash harmful bacteria out of the mouth.
Here are some of the other common symptoms of breathing through the mouth:
- Chapped or dry lips
- Chronic halitosis (bad breath)
- Gingivitis (gum inflammation)
- Crowded teeth
- Teeth staining
- Difficulty sleeping or poor sleep quality
- Neck, jaw, or ear pain
- Greater susceptibility to colds
- Increased risk of ear and sinus infections
As you can see, some of the issues of mouth breathing are not confined to the mouth and jaw. If you experience one or more of these symptoms on a regular basis, consult with your doctor.
What Causes Mouth Breathing?
The causes of mouth breathing are almost as numerous as its symptoms, and each individual case is different. That being said, mouth breathing in children is usually the result of tonsillitis or enlarged and swollen adenoids. These block the airways, and the body overcompensates (trying to get enough air) by breathing through the mouth. This problem should be addressed before mouth breathing becomes a habit and the issues of mouth breathing take root.
In both children and adults, temporary mouth breathing may be the result of allergies or having an illness that results in nasal congestion. If you discover that you are breathing through your mouth as the result of hay fever or cold, speak with your doctor. He or she may prescribe antihistamines, nasal sprays, or other decongestants that can help clear the nose, allowing you to breathe more comfortably.
In other cases, structural or physiological problems may lead to habitual mouth breathing. If this is true for you, consider consulting an Ear Nose Throat (ENT) specialist. Such professionals have specialized expertise and recommended therapies that can help reverse the issues of mouth breathing before they become too serious.
Nasal Breathing—The Better Alternative
If mouth breathing is so terrible, can breathing through the nose really be much better? Yes. Nasal breathing wins in both effectiveness and healthiness every time. The nose acts as a filter for the air we inhale, so it removes allergens and particulate matter before it can enter the more delicate lungs. This also improves the amount of oxygen the body can consume.
Nasal breathing has also been shown to have positive effects on oral structural development. Breathing primarily through the nose can ensure that the upper airway and other dental and skeletal features develop correctly. That development is hindered when mouth breathing is the primary source of oxygen inhalation, resulting in structural weakness such as myofascial pain, malocclusion, periodontal disease, tooth erosion as the result of bruxism, impacted teeth and temporo-mandibular disorder.
Can You Reverse the Effects of Mouth Breathing?
Depending on their severity, the effects of mouth breathing can often be reversed. When caught early on, more mild symptoms can be undone. This is true for both children and adults. To make breathing through your nose your default, start by practicing during the day, when you can concentrate on doing so.
Take the medications necessary to clear up your nose and sinuses, and consider more practical lifestyle changes. These may include adjusting the way you sleep; perhaps you need to sleep a little bit propped up. Try adding a pillow or two to have an unrestricted airflow as you sleep.
The issues of mouth breathing don’t have to be a foregone conclusion. While it may seem daunting to change something as fundamental as the way you breathe, it is possible. Mouth breathing is a habit, and all habits can be broken with the right amount of practice and determination. You also don’t have to go it alone. Work with your dentist to find the right solution for you to make nasal breathing natural and instinctual.