March 31, 2023

The Effects Of Mouth Breathing

Mouth breathing is a common habit that many of us have picked up at one point or another. And while it may seem harmless at first, it can have serious negative effects. Mouth breathing refers to the act of breathing through the mouth instead of the nose. It may be a habit that you’re unaware of, but with the harsh side effects of dry mouth, respiratory infections, and reduced oxygen intake, it’s a habit that needs to be taken seriously, especially if it's chronic or persistent. 

Let’s take a deeper look into why you might be breathing through your mouth, the effects of mouth breathing, and how you can take steps to break this habit. 

Common reasons for mouth breathing:

  • Nasal Congestion: Have you ever been so stuffed up in your nose that you can only breathe through your mouth? Yep, we’ve all been there. Turns out breathing through your mouth is not actually the solution you think it is. Congestion can be caused by any sickness from colds to chronic sinusitis, but are also prevalent in allergies. This can be bad especially when your allergies are lasting for weeks on end.

  • Nasal Structure Issues: Problems such as deviated septum, swollen nasal passages, or even collapsed nasal valves can create blockage in the nasal passages resulting in difficulty breathing through the nose.

  • Nasal Obstruction: Nasal polyps or any kind of obstruction or growth in the nasal cavity are also factors that can contribute to mouth breathing. 

Who is affected by mouth breathing?

Mouth breathing can be found in both children and adults. However, it’s most common that the habit of breathing through your mouth begins as a child. It’s estimated that between 10% and 25% of children have mouth breathing.

Common effects of breathing with your mouth open:

Dry Mouth

Have you ever heard of cottonmouth? It's the state you feel when your mouth is so dry that there is little to no saliva that can properly lubricate your mouth. By continually breathing with your mouth open causes saliva to evaporate from the mouth resulting in dry mouth.

It can affect your breath

If your saliva is evaporating, it can’t do its job at keeping bacteria from entering your mouth. Without saliva, bad bacteria can begin to grow, causing your breath to smell.

You’re at risk for more cavities

Another job for saliva is to protect the teeth from that bad bacteria. Without saliva, breathing with your mouth open can create a risk for tooth decay.

Prone to respiratory infections

Breathing through your mouth can actually be the cause of your cold or sickness. When we breathe through our mouths, the air that we breathe tends to be dry and cold air. This air can irritate our airways, making them more susceptible to infection. This could be why you wake up with a mild sore throat in the morning.

It can affect your sleep

We know congestion can make it hard to breathe and make it difficult to sleep, resulting in extreme fatigue. Sometimes our only solution is to breathe with our mouth open. But this can actually make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. 

It can also cause throat and mouth muscles to weaken overtime resulting in snoring or sleep apnea.

  • Reduced oxygen intake: When you breathe through your mouth, you take in less oxygen compared to breathing through your nose. This can cause fatigue, brain fog, and other health problems.

  • Overall increased risk of infection: The nose acts as a natural filter, trapping dirt, dust, and other particles, which can help prevent infections. When you breathe through your mouth, you bypass this natural filtration system, increasing the risk of infections.

  • Facial Deformities: Mouth breathing can cause structural changes to the face, including a long, narrow jaw and smaller chin. This may lead to issues with your overall facial appearance, sleep problems, or speech difficulties.

Reasons to breathe through the nose:

If all of the effects above didn’t convince you to breathe through your nose, let this be the reason…your nose is made for optimal breathing. 

All those tiny little nose hairs, mucus, and everything in between are created so you don’t have to worry about inhaling bacteria and gross stuff. Things are all made to filter out the bad, so you’re only breathing in fresh oxygen. They play an important part in warming and adding humidity to the air we’re breathing in. These tiny nose hairs also filter out the things we can’t see like dust and other allergens like pollen. When we breathe through our mouth we’re bypassing this filter and letting all the bad, cold, dry air enter our lungs. 

So I shouldn’t ever breathe from my mouth?

That’s not always the case. For certain times, mouth breathing is necessary. Activities such as exercise, mouth breathing is necessary to inhale more oxygen than your nose would. 

Breathing with your mouth open shouldn’t become a habit. It’s the overuse that causes issues. 

How to stop breathing from your mouth

  1. Become aware of your breathing. It’s important to find out when you breathe through your mouth the most. Is it when you’re sleeping? Or does your mouth constantly hang open? Is it a habit, or just something you do when you’re congested? These questions will help you figure out next steps.

  2. Once you’ve figured out when, it’s time to get to the why. If you only breathe through your mouth when you’re congested, there might be a bigger issue there such as structural issues, nasal polyps, or allergic rhinitis. If your mouth just hangs open out of habit, try to make an effort to keep your mouth closed.

Practice nasal breathing: Train yourself to breathe through your nose by practicing nasal breathing during the day, especially when you're relaxed or engaged in light activities.

Keep your mouth closed: When you catch yourself mouth breathing, try to close your mouth and take a few deep breaths through your nose. You can also try taping your mouth shut at night to encourage nasal breathing during sleep.

Improve nasal function: Address any underlying nasal problems that may be contributing to mouth breathing, such as allergies, congestion, or a deviated septum. Consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Practice good oral hygiene: Maintaining good oral hygiene can help prevent dry mouth, bad breath, and other oral health issues that may contribute to mouth breathing.

Use a humidifier: Using a humidifier in your bedroom can help keep the air moist, which can reduce the need for mouth breathing.

Maintain good posture: Poor posture can contribute to mouth breathing, so practice good posture to encourage proper breathing through the nose.

Manage stress: Stress can also contribute to mouth breathing. Practicing stress-reduction techniques, such as deep breathing (through the nose), meditation, and yoga, can help break the habit.

Treatments for mouth breathing:

Luckily, at Aspire Allergy & Sinus we treat both allergy and sinus conditions including nasal polyps, deviated septum's, and more! Clear up your congestion in just 15 minutes with innovative treatments such as balloon sinuplasty. This treatment is made to open up the nasal passages and clear up your congestion. 

If you and your doctor decide its allergy related there are also long-term allergy treatment options to treat the root cause of your allergies. 

Short-term treatments:

Over-the-counter medications: If your mouth breathing issue is due to allergies, you could try using an antihistamine to clear up congestion. Just remember that these medications are short-term treatments meaning that they will only mask the symptoms, not treat them. 

Long-term treatments:

Allergy Drops: Also known as sublingual immunotherapy, allergy drops are a great way to begin your long-term allergy treatment. By just taking 3-drops a day, you can begin your long-term allergy relief! Allergy drops are great because they can be taken anywhere and at any time. Typically a fan-favorite amongst our patients. 

Allergy Shots: Also known as Immunotherapy. These shots work by slowly introducing the body to the allergen, so the body can learn to not react to it over time. Shots are given either weekly or bi-weekly and administered in the clinic. These are a great option for those who need a routine around their allergy treatment. 

ExACT Immunoplasty: Are you looking for quick and effective allergy treatments? Look no further. Our newest and most innovative treatment, ExACT is just 3 shots over the span of eight weeks. Coming in as our quickest treatment. Clinical studies have shown ExACT to be just as effective as three years of allergy shots. 

Chronic mouth breathing can have a wide range of negative effects on your health and well-being. If you’re noticing these effects, it may be worth looking into. Just take a few moments out of your day to recognize if you’re breathing through your mouth. If you find that you are breathing through your mouth frequently, book an appointment with us to address the underlying causes and potential treatments.

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