Is breathing through your mouth bad?

For some, breathing through the mouth is natural, but there is a reason coaches tell athletes to inhale in through the nose and out the mouth. Your nasal passages are lined with small hairs to capture harmful germs and particles from entering the body. Your mouth has no defense.

As bacteria and other substances enter your mouth they attach themselves and begin to work on everything from your gums to your lungs.

Let’s delve into the reasons why breathing through your mouth and find out more about taking better care of your health through your breathing habits.

Why is Breathing Through your Mouth Bad?

Breathing through your mouth can expose you to several harmful substances, such as germs, toxins, and various pathogens that can infect your respiratory system, which can cause infections or even diseases like pneumonia. In addition, the bacteria in your mouth can cause tooth decay and gingivitis if you don’t take care of it regularly. All these factors make breathing through your mouth a bad habit that should be avoided.

Risk of oral diseases like cavities and gum disease are increased in people who breathe through their mouth. The reasons for this are discussed below.  Mouth breathing can lead to a number of serious oral conditions

Causes of Mouth Breathing

Mouth breathing is not something we often think about. We may control our breathing when exercising, but not when we sleep. For the most part most people breath through their nose, but there are circumstances that may cause you to breathe through your mouth instead, such as:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Enlarge adenoids or tonsils
  • Nasal polyps
  • Genetics, such as a deviated septum or the shape of your nose or jaw

The reason why many people don’t naturally breathe through their mouths is that it is difficult. When you smell food or drink through your nose, you can automatically close your mouth for the act of eating. In order to breathe through your mouth, you need to keep your mouth open and keep air flowing through it. This poses a challenge for many people. When you’re stressed out, you tend to breathe through your mouth more because of anxiety. This doesn’t help to reduce the stress, and it might even increase it.

How to Tell if you’re Mouth Breathing

Dry mouth, bad breath, infections, tooth decay, and airway blockage are all signs that you might be mouth breathing. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should try to figure out what you’re doing to cause the mouth breathing.

  • Dry mouth: Saliva is a key component of protecting the oral cavity from diseases like cavities and gum disease. Saliva contains proteins and molecules that keep bad bacteria from attaching and growing to surfaces in your mouth. When you breathe through your mouth, your saliva evaporates more quickly, leaving your teeth and gums exposed to potentially harmful bacterial growth. This can lead to oral microbiome dysbiosis and higher risk of oral disease.
  • Bad breath (halitosis): You know that smell that comes from your mouth when you wake up in the morning. Or maybe you’ve noticed it when you’re eating something particularly stinky. This is probably because you’re breathing through your mouth and exposing yourself to the bad bacteria in your mouth.
  • Infections: Mouth breathing could potentially cause you to get various types of infections in your respiratory system. This includes infections like sinusitis, which could potentially make you feel headachy and sick. Infections can lead to swollen tonsils
  • Tooth decay: In addition to causing you to breathe through your mouth, bad tooth decay could also potentially damage your teeth. Therefore, if you notice any signs of tooth decay, you should try to get them treated as soon as possible.
  • Airways blockage: Bad breath, tooth decay, and bacterial infections could potentially all cause an airways blockage. This could make you feel run down and even susceptible to various types of infections.

These are not the only symptoms to look for. More common signs include:

  • Snoring
  • Lack of proper sleep even after eight hours
  • Throat soreness
  • Chronic fatigue

How Mouth breathing Affects Children

A group of Brazilian researchers studied the effects of mouth breathing in children. Of the 204 children they tested, they found that 55 percent of them were mouth breathers (2).Aged 3 to 9 with other tests in Venezuela and India included children as old as fourteen, the majority of children were found to have the following issues:

  • septum displacement
  • rhinitis
  • enlarged tonsils and adnoids
  • foreign bodies

Although there was irritability and daytime sleepiness, most of the problems were observed at night, where, the children slept with their mouths open, snored, drooled or had agitated sleep patterns, characteristic of sleep disorders.

How to Prevent Mouth Breathing

Sometimes the problem is medical, especially if you’re a loud snorer. Snoring is caused by a closure in your throat, and the best ways to fix the problem is by losing weight or with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. If you notice that you’re breathing through your mouth throughout the day, then consider some of the following:

  1. Exercise – This serves two purposes. First it helps you relearn to breathe. Breathe in through the nose, and out through the mouth. It’s easy to make a conscience effort while exercising.
  2. Keep your nose clean – Allergies, particles in the air and temperature can cause your nasal passages to back up. When it becomes hard to breathe through the nostrils, the reaction to counter the problem is to breathe through the mouth.
  3. Reduce anxiety – Anxiety and stress can cause gasps for air to crying, both of which causes mouth breathing. You may have seen on television where a stressed person will meditate and chant in through the nose, out through the mouth. There is some credence to this mantra.
  4. Find the right pillow(s) – Blocking your nasal passageways while you sleep could be due to your mattress or how your head lies upon your pillow. Change the position of your pillow, get a softer or harder pillow, or stack them around your head to provide the most breathing comfort as you sleep.
  5. Mouth taping at night - by forcing the mouth shut with tape before you sleep, you can increase nasal breathing. This practice can prevent the mouth from easily opening, thus improving nose breathing.

Advantages of Nose Breathing

Nose breathing is how we humans are meant to breathe. Your nose hairs (cilia) act as a filtration system to protect the rest of your body from harmful substances, but there are several other benefits to breathing thru your nose, such as:

  • Acting as a humidifier. Air breathed in thru the nose is temperature regulated to adapt the incoming air to your normal body temperature, which also reduces shocking the lungs.
  • Increases oxygen circulation in the body. The nose adds nitric oxide to the air you breathe in. The nitric oxide widens your blood vessels and produces a better oxygen flow throughout the rest of your body.
  • Reduced allergy risks. By catching the foreign particles in the air, your nose can limit the amount of pathogens entering your body, which reduces the intensity of allergies.
  • Improved oral health. Breathing through your mouth
  • Improved overall health. Breathing properly allows the body to function properly. This includes better artery health, slower breathing habits, a stronger immune system and improved dental health.

Prevent Mouth Breathing for Good

You now realize that mouth breathing is not good for you and probably want to know if there’s anything you can do about it. Yes, there is!  If you want to prevent it, you should start by identifying the triggers that prompt you to breathe thru your mouth. These might include anxiety, stress, allergies, improper sleeping habits.

Once you determine what the triggers are, you can consciously avoid them and work toward rectifying the problem It is important to remember that it will take time for your breathing patterns to change. If you want to change your breathing patterns, you need to be persistent.

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