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  • Writer's pictureCamille Forbes

Do you breathe through your nose or your mouth?

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

“MOUTH BREATHER” was readily used as an insult, as demonstrated by the following Urban Dictionary entry. 

Mouthbreather 

mouth-breath·er 


ˈmouTHˌ brēT͟Hər/ 

noun 

informal 

1. Someone who is really dumb 

2. A person who doesn’t/can’t breathe through their nose (The word “Mouth breather is also used in Stranger things)

These days mouth breathing is so common, many people don’t even realize that they or family members are doing it. 

What Leads To Mouth Breathing? 


There are many reasons somebody may begin mouth breathing or other types of dysfunctional breathing, such as chronic hyperventilation, and in some cases there may be multiple factors:



o Prolonged respiratory infection 

o Chronic nasal congestion 

o Allergies/Asthma 

o Thumb of finger sucking 

o Large tonsils and/or adenoids

o Narrow roof of the mouth leaving no room for the tongue o Modern diet (overeating/overly processed foods/acidic diet) o Lack of exercise 

o Excessive talking 

o Stress/anxiety 

o Belief that taking breaths through the mouth is healthy o High temperatures in indoor environments 

o Genetic predisposition /familial habits 

o Cultural shift of acceptance of mouth breathing/belief that mouth breathing is “sexy” or “attractive” 


That Funny Thing Called The Nose 


This funny thing plastered on our faces was designed and put there for a reason. Humans and the majority of animals (except flat faced dogs perhaps) are obligate nasal-breathers. That means that at birth we come into the world breathing through our noses and was intended to do so throughout our lives. 



WHY SHOULD WE BREATHE THROUGH OUR NOSES? 


The nose is essentially a filtering system and air humidifier for the air we breathe in and out. Utilizing CO2 as well as nitric oxide, nasal breathing helps us to deliver more oxygen to our brain and body, helping with overall performance and contributing to our psychological well-being.


FACIAL DEVELOPMENT MORE TYPICAL OF A NASAL BREATHER 


Listed below are some of the health benefits of nasal breathing: 

o Warms, humidifies, and sterilizes air leading to less illness (asthma, colds, etc.) 

o More efficient oxygen delivery (10-20% more oxygen uptake and delivery to body tissues than with mouth breathing) o Increased saliva flow which helps with eating and is better for dental health

o Increased performance during sports, sex, public speaking, singing, etc. o Better attention and memory 

o Less risk of bed wetting, snoring, sleep apnea, ADHD, behavioural disorders 

o Allows for healthy facial and dental development (wider face and palate, more nasal cavity space, less orthodontic problems) 

o Helps facilitate proper head and tongue rest posture with tongue up in the roof of the mouth and the head held straight over shoulders 

o Decreased risk of TMJ, migraines, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, etc. 


WHY SHOULD WE STOP MOUTH BREATHING? 


Breathing through the mouth does not allow us the same benefits as nasal breathing. C02 is blown off, and the nitric oxide produced in the nose is not utilized. Oxygen is not efficiently delivered to the brain and body, leading to a lack of overall performance and issues with overall mood, and the open mouth posture can lead to issues with facial and dental development and health. Some of the negatives of mouth breathing are as follows:



FACIAL DEVELOPMENT MORE TYPICAL OF A MOUTH BREATHER 


o Dehydration of upper airway leading to increased risk of asthma o Increases risk of respiratory infections (colds, flu, etc.) 

o Inefficient 02 delivery to tissues leading to a tendency toward hyperventilation 

o Dry mouth, bad breath, more cavities and gingivitis 

o Decreased overall performance (sports, sex, speaking, etc.) 

o Increased risk of bed wetting, snoring, sleep apnea, ADHD, behavioral disorders 

o Worse attention and memory

o Tendency towards abnormal facial developments 

o Forward head posture, low tongue rest posture 

o Increased risk of TMJ, migraines, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, etc. 


If I Am Mouth Breathing How Do I Stop? 


Most people can be taught how to breathe through their noses again, as long as there are no true nasal blockages. Depending on how many years you have been mouth breathing, you may need more or less help with this as many times the muscles of the face and mouth, as well as bad breathing habits have become ingrained. 


Myofunctional Therapists have a variety of exercises and other resources to help children and adults to re-train these habits to achieve the ultimate goal of nasal breathing. Intervening early can help avoid many dental, sleep, orthodontic, and general health issues. 


If you or someone you love needs help with nasal breathing re-education, contact us for help.

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