We all know what it feels like to have a bad cold with a stuffy nose. With a stuffed up nose there’s no other choice but to breathe through the mouth. And that makes sense. It also makes sense when we breathe through both the nose and mouth during and after strenuous physical activity or sports. This extra breath intake is the body’s solution to getting more oxygen to the over-worked muscles.
However, mouth breathing as a habit has numerous negative effects. This is particularly true if the habit begins in childhood.
The Mouth Breathing Habit
The mouth breathing habit might begin in any one of several ways:
- An orthodontic problem with bite alignment making it difficult to keep the mouth closed, especially while sleeping
- A deviated septum
- Allergies causing closure or partial closure of the nasal passages
- Overly large tonsils
- A nasal obstruction, such as a polyp
- The development of the mouth-breathing habit in a child after getting a nose cold
Any of these could make nose breathing more difficult or, in some cases, impossible for a majority of the time. Fortunately, these are all treatable conditions.
What’s Wrong with Mouth Breathing?
Mouth breathing can create both short and long term problems with the mouth, teeth, and general health.
Short Term Negative Effects of Mouth Breathing
- Dry Mouth and Dental Decay – You may be surprised to learn that breathing through the mouth can create dryness in that entire region. This dry-mouth condition removes the body’s first defense against the oral bacteria responsible for bad breath and tooth decay.
- Fatigue – Lack of energy can be caused by an insufficient amount of oxygen getting to the cells of the body. When you breath through your mouth you get a less restful sleep, causing lower energy levels overall. Both children and adults have more difficulty concentrating when tired which, for children, can result in difficulty learning and poorer grades. For adults, the low energy caused by nighttime mouth breathing can result in decreased productivity and general fatigue.
Long Term Negative Effects of Mouth Breathing
Negative effects of mouth breathing can continue the long term, causing problems from childhood into and throughout the adult years.
- Sleep Apnea – Sleep apnea is an uncomfortable and fatiguing condition and the risk of having sleep apnea increase with mouth breathing.
- Alteration in Facial Structure – The bones of the face can actually be altered by consistent mouth breathing during childhood. This alteration can lead to flattened features, a narrow jaw and dental arch, drooping eyes, and a small chin.
- Need for Orthodontic Treatment – A narrowed dental arch does not allow enough room for the natural spacing and development of a full set of adult teeth. When this occurs, extensive orthodontic treatment is required to fix the problem.
Benefits of Nose Breathing
Breathing through your nose does more for you than just avoiding the problems caused by mouth breathing.
- Strengthening the Immune System – Nose breathing strengthens the immune system by activating something called immunoglobulin (a vital element in the immune system that fights foreign substances)
- Produces Nitric Oxide – Nose breathing produces nitric oxide which helps with the absorption of oxygen and sterilization of the air as it enters the body.
- The Nose is Also an Air Filter – Breathing through the nose offers the body a chance to clean the air before it enters the lungs, thus reducing the amount of allergens you take in.
Get Healthier Breathing Habits
If you or your child has a mouth breathing habit that’s difficult to overcome, schedule a dental exam right away. Once the cause is detected, you will be quickly on the road to healthier breathing and all the wonderful benefits that follow.
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