The term “mouth breather” has been used as a belittling label given to people who presumably lack intelligence. For the sake of clarity, we want to state that this is not what we mean in this article.
Here’s our definition of someone who is a mouth breather:
A person who, quite literally, tends to breathe through their mouth more than their nose out of habit or some other cause.
You might be thinking, “So, why is mouth breathing such a big deal?” When a person tends to breathe through their mouth, there are many factors that may cause health problems. We’ll take a look at the causes, symptoms, and negative effects that mouth breathing can have as well as possible treatment options.
1. Causes of Mouth Breathing
While breathing through the mouth can be extremely natural to someone, they are most likely doing it because they cannot breathe through their nose correctly or comfortably. Here are a few things that may influence the way someone breathes:
- Abnormally Large Tonsils. Large or swollen tonsils can cause nasal obstruction.
- Allergies. Allergies that are caused by food or environmental surroundings can enlarge two major air-filtering organs.
- Lip Patency. This is a condition when a person’s lips don’t close properly. Poor placement habits of the tongue can cause this.
- Nasal Obstruction. A nasal obstruction is anything that blocks air passage in or out of the nose.
- Sinusitis. When a person has sinusitis, their sinuses – the cavities around their nose – become inflamed, making it difficult to breathe through the nose.
- Sleep Apnea. This is a sleep disorder in which a person’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts during their rest.
2. Symptoms of Mouth Breathing
You may not even be aware that you tend to breath through your mouth. Or maybe you want to check if your children breathe through their nose or mouth. If a person breathes through their mouth regularly, they will probably exhibit some of the symptoms listed below.
- Airway Infections (Sinus, ear, colds, etc.)
- Bad Breath
- Crowded Teeth
- Dry Lips
- Itchy & Dry Throat
- Snoring (Or having an open mouth while sleeping.)
If any of these symptoms seem familiar (in either you or your child), take time to figure out the cause of the problem in order to properly treat it.
3. Negative Effects of Mouth Breathing
The fact of the matter is that when someone breathes through their mouth, it can have a much bigger effect than one might think. Large health issues can develop if mouth breathing continues for long without any treatment.
Nobody likes waking up in the middle of the night in desperate need of a drink of water. Besides being uncomfortable, a dry mouth can actually be a huge cause of other health problems.
It can dry out the throat and gums, making them inflamed and irritated. If untreated, this can cause gum disease, which is linked to other serious health issues like heart attacks, strokes and heart disease.
A dry mouth significantly decreases saliva, which is a primary agent in protecting your mouth from harmful bacteria as well as neutralizing acids. With a lack of saliva, your teeth are much more susceptible to tooth decay and other bad oral conditions.
And lastly, a dry mouth can lead to chronic bad breath that is difficult to treat – even if you have good dental habits. To treat a dry mouth, try one of these options.
Continuous mouth breathing can affect the amount of oxygen that enters the bloodstream. An abnormally low concentration of oxygen in the blood is a condition called hypoxemia.
Low oxygen levels is a serious issue that can cause high blood pressure, fatigue and headaches.
Low pH Levels
The pH level of your body is also known as the power of hydrogen. The pH scale measures how acidic or basic a substance is – essentially, the measure of hydrogen ions in something. A pH level less than 7 is acidic and one greater than 7 is alkaline. When you breathe through your mouth, you cause your saliva to evaporate and your mouth to dry out. This can lower the pH level, making it more acidic. Acidic pH can activate harmful bacteria that harms your teeth and causes corrosion. On the other hand, alkaline is a base and neutralizes the effects of an acid. You need a proper balance of both to stay healthy.
Mouth breathing is related to sleep apnea, a sleep disorder in adults that disturbs a person’s breathing while they sleep. If children breathe through their mouths while they sleep, they might not get quality rest because they aren’t getting enough oxygen.
Because they aren’t getting well rested at night, people may find it hard to concentrate during the day. Children may have difficulty paying attention in school and their performance can drop.
Skeletal or Facial Deformities
It might sound like a hoax, but it’s not! Untreated continuous breathing through the mouth – especially in children – can actually change the shape of your face. Mouth breathers take on a different posture than people who breath through their nose. Inhaling through the mouth constantly can hinder the lower jaw from developing like it should, creating a slightly stunted chin. Other characteristics include narrow faces and mouths, less defined cheek bones and even crooked teeth.
4. Treating Mouth Breathing
The treatment for mouth breathing will depend on the specific condition since there are so many different causes. For instance, if the issue is because of enlarged sinuses, the cure might be a visit to the doctor. If the problem is structural, that would require the expertise of an orthodontist.
On the other hand, if mouth breathing is not a serious condition in your case, there are small (possibly temporary) things you can do to fix the problem.
- Get Regular Exercise
- Remind Yourself (or Your Child) to Breathe Through the Nose
- Remove Allergens from Your Home
- Rub Vitamin E Oil on Gums Before Sleeping
- Sit or Stand with Correct Posture
- Try a Neti Pot
- Use a Humidifier
- Use a Saline Nasal Spray
If you aren’t sure what is causing your mouth breathing, schedule a visit to the dentist for insight.
Do you breathe through your mouth? What solutions have worked for you? Help us add to our list by commenting below.