Sometimes people ask, “Is mouth breathing bad?” The short answer is YES.
What is the reason for the mouth breathing? Could it be temporary mouth breathing because a cold has stopped up your nose, or do you breathe through your mouth all day and night?
The mouth is designed for eating and talking while the nose is meant for breathing. The mouth is only to be used for breathing in emergency situations like when our nose stopped up, so temporary mouth breathing is ok but not ideal long term. Let’s delve more into the question – is mouth breathing bad:
Is Mouth Breathing Bad? What Causes Mouth Breathing?
One of the most common causes of mouth breathing is nasal congestion. This may be a cause of cold, flu, or allergies. Most often, this is temporary and resolves itself as you recover from the cold. In general, constant mouth breathing is due to a blockage or obstruction in the nose or another issue preventing you from getting enough oxygen.
Some common and uncommon causes include:
- enlarged or swollen tonsils
- enlarged adenoids
- nasal polyps or growths in the nose lining
- deviated septum
- the nose’s shape or structure
- the shape and size of the jaw
- tumors (in very rare cases)
- sleep apnea
As you can see, many of these causes require medical care. So unexplained mouth breathing is not something to ignore.
Some risk factors associated with mouth breathing include:
- Known or unknown allergies
- Recurring sinus infections
- Ongoing stress or anxiety
When Might Mouth Breathing Be a Problem?
If you notice mouth breathing in a child, be sure to contact your dentist or pediatrician. In some cases, it can cause or is associated with crooked teeth, facial deformities, or growth issues. This is one situation where mouth breathing can be a problem, especially if it is not because of a temporary condition like a cold.
Adults who breathe through the mouth often develop dry mouth, gum disease, and even tooth decay. So even when a serious condition doesn’t cause chronic mouth breathing, it still may negatively affect oral health.
Mouth breathing can lead to:
- Dry mouth
- Halitosis or bad breath
- Gum disease
- Throat or even ear infections
Signs and Symptoms of Mouth Breathing
Sometimes mouth breathing is the first symptom noticed either by the patient or a member of their household. We thought it might be helpful to list some of the signs that you may be chronically breathing through your mouth while you sleep.
Symptoms in Adults
- Halitosis or bad breath
- Dry feeling mouth
- A dry feeling throat
- Waking up feeling tired
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Chapped lips
Symptoms of Mouth Breathing in Children
- Large tonsils
- Dry, chapped, cracked lips
- Slower growth rate than average
- Moodiness, crying, or irritability
- ADHD type activity
- Trouble concentrating
- Sleepiness during the day
- Teeth grinding
As mentioned earlier, chronic mouth breathing in children is associated with serious health issues, so it is important to see a pediatrician with knowledge of airway issues to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.
Benefits of nasal breathing: nitric oxide
There are many benefits to breathing through our nose. When we breathe through our noses, we pick up a molecule called nitric oxide. This molecule is produced in the nose and is carried to the rest of our bodies when we inhale through our nose. This molecule is not taken to the rest of the body when we mouth breathe.
Nitric oxide is good for the heart
It relaxes the vessels and keeps them flexible, allowing them to dilate, boost blood flow, and help to control blood pressure. This is one reason we find people that mouth breathe, tend to have higher blood pressure.
Nitric oxide is good for the brain
It plays a key role in a variety of neurological processes, including as a neurotransmitter. Too much or too little nitric oxide may impact memory and cognitive function and be involved in conditions such as depression, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Nitric oxide can boost exercise performance
Since it is involved in vasodilation, it helps increase the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to working muscles during exercise, thus enhancing exercise performance and muscle recovery.
Mouth Breathing and Sleeping
When we mouth breathe, research shows that we get 20% LESS oxygen to our bodies and brain. This is related to the lack of nitric oxide we take in through our mouth. This is most important for our developing children. Decreased oxygen uptake by our bodies, makes our brains and bodies think it’s in an emergency situation and activates the sympathetic nervous system, also known as fight or flight. This is why we see people that breathe through their mouths tend to sweat more, especially at night. Our bodies regenerate and replenish hormones at night. If our bodies stay in the fight or flight mode, then this replenishing does not occur.
Many children are misdiagnosed with ADHD when they are actually just poorly rested kids — mouth breathing kids. When we mouth breathe, our sleep is interrupted, we stay anxious, and we wake not restored. Fidgety children are often kids that are trying to stay awake.
How to Eliminate Mouth Breathing
As we strive to be healthy, we need to breathe through our nose at all times. When we breathe through our mouth, our nose makes more mucus. If we are temporarily mouth breathing because of a cold, we may see this frustrating cycle where mucus makes us mouth breathe, but mouth breathing creates more mucus. The good news is that there are techniques, not just medicines, that can be done to open nasal passages so that you can resume nose breathing.
A Myofunctional therapist is an excellent resource for teaching techniques to open nasal passages.
Constantly breathing through the mouth, especially while sleeping, can be a sign that you can’t get enough oxygen through your nose. Chronic mouth breathing is also associated with oral health issues like dry mouth, gum disease, and increased cavities.
The nose is a natural filter keeping some particles, dust, pollen, and microbes out of the lungs. When we mouth breathe, the throat and tonsils have to do the filtering. It is common to see enlarged and inflamed tonsil in someone that breaths more through their mouth.
Treatments for Mouth Breathing
Depending on the cause, a doctor may treat mouth breathing in a variety of ways. Sometimes they may suggest an over the counter or prescription nasal decongestant or antihistamine. Some people benefit from adhesive nasal strips that hold the nose in a more open position during sleep. Occasionally surgical interventions like the removal of inflamed tonsils or adenoids are necessary.
Once you are able to breathe through your nose, the training from a Myofunctional therapist will help you train your lips and tongue to go to the appropriate positions to keep your lips sealed and full nasal breathing. At Southview Dentistry, Dr. Kelly Wilson is a trained Myofunctional therapist, and she can work with you to determine your needs to transition to full nasal breathing.
The best way to resolve mouth breathing is to see your doctor or dentist for early diagnosis and treatment.
Taking Care of Your Teeth and Oral Health
If you or a member of your family breathes through the mouth, the most important thing is to address the root cause. In addition, take some of the other precautions that someone with chronic dry mouth may need to take.
Be especially consistent with your oral hygiene since mouth breathing may increase your risk for both cavities and gum disease. So be sure to:
- Brush your teeth twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a toothpaste containing fluoride.
- Floss your teeth daily.
- Consider using a mouthwash.
- Sip water throughout the day to help prevent dry mouth and to stay hydrated.
- Consider sucking on sugar-free candies or mints to stimulate saliva.
- Try not to breathe through the mouth during the day unless working out or otherwise exerting yourself.
- Stay current on your professional examinations and cleanings.
- Limit consumption of sugary and acidic foods and beverages.
We hope this article sheds some light on the question of, “Is mouth breathing bad?” In short, YES mouth breathing is BAD.
If you or a loved one breathes through the mouth while sleeping, then be sure and see your dentist. Some causes are mild and resolve themselves, such as a common cold or seasonal allergy. Some causes are more serious and require intervention.
Breathing through the mouth also increases the risk of oral health problems. This makes it even more important to see your dentist as recommended. If you are a Charlotte-area resident who is due for an appointment or has concerns about mouth breathing, contact Southview Dentistry today.