From healthcare professionals to social media stars, it seems like everyone is discussing the negative effects of mouth breathing. With so much media attention, it can be challenging to separate fact from fiction.
If you know or suspect that you breathe through your mouth, we’ve addressed all of your questions below. Keep reading until the end for solutions to combat the negative effects of mouth breathing.
Is Mouth Breathing Really That Bad?
In short–yes. Mouth breathing is connected with several negative side effects that can impact your sleep, health, teeth, and potentially even your appearance. While many people navigate life as mouth breathers just fine, doctors and dentists alike recommend switching to breathing through your nostrils whenever possible.
At an anatomical level, mouth breathing deprives you of the protection of your nose. That’s right! Your nose has been looking out for you this whole time.
Each nostril is lined with tiny hairs that help filter out pollution, irritants, and other airborne debris. As you breathe through your mouth, you forego that filtration process and make yourself more vulnerable to allergens, pollutants, and more.
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Additionally, the stars of your respiratory system (the throat and lungs) work best with humid, warm air. The structure of the human nose moistens the air you breathe, while the mouth does not. Similarly, breathing through your nose allows the air to slowly warm up to nearly body temperature. Air from mouth breathing is not warmed in the same way, forcing our tissues to work harder to absorb oxygen from the air.
How Mouth Breathing Affects You
Okay, so health professionals advise against mouth breathing. But why? In short, humans were designed to breathe through our nostrils. So breathing through our mouths for long periods of time (even just for six to nine hours at night) negatively impacts multiple internal systems, which in turn affects our overall health.
See the list below for the most common negative side effects of mouth breathing.
- Sleep Disorders and Snoring
People frequently engaging in mouth breathing for extended periods of time are more likely to develop sleep disorders. Sleep apnea is especially common among people breathing through their mouth regularly.
Mouth breathing is also strongly correlated with mouth-based snoring, which can further decrease the quality of your sleep (and your partner’s sleep!).
- Chronic allergies
The link between mouth breathing and allergies comes as no surprise, since mouth breathing avoids the nose’s built-in filtration system. Instead of air passing through a series of connected structures designed to remove bacteria, viruses, pollutants, and allergens, mouth breathing provides no protection.
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Essentially, breathing through our mouths transforms our airway from a sophisticated filtration system into a crude open pipe to the external world. This leaves us incredibly vulnerable to any airborne particles–especially allergens.
- Chronic stress & anxiety
Humans are biologically wired to breathe through our mouths when we need to rally extra energy to survive. Think about it–most people are breathing through their mouths (heavily) after a run or in moments of panic.
So when we regularly breathe through our mouths, we accidentally activate our sympathetic nervous system (“fight-or-flight” responses). Our bodies respond by using upper chest muscles to breathe (instead of muscles in the diaphragm). Overall, mouth breathing causes the body to go into a state of stress. No wonder mouth breathing is strongly correlated with higher blood pressure, poor concentration, lower memory function, and stress/anxiety.
- Oral Health Issues
Yes, mouth breathing can even affect your oral health. Saliva serves an essential role in oral health, helping to neutralize acidic plaque from food. Mouth breathing causes saliva to constantly dry up. This leaves your teeth at greater risk of cavities, gum disease, and chronic bad breath.
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Beyond the teeth, chronic mouth breathing can add a strain on the jaw joints, which can in turn lead to a variety of other conditions. Children who regularly breathe through their mouths can have altered face shapes. So for the sake of your mouth, keep it shut!
Solutions to Mouth Breathing
Switching to nostril breathing during the day is manageable, but what if you are breathing through your mouth at night? How would you even know?
Waking up with a sore throat, dry mouth, and/or drool on your pillow are the first signs that you might be mouth breathing at night. Other symptoms that point to nighttime mouth breathing include chronic fatigue, snoring, bad breath, and brain fog.
If you are indeed breathing through your mouth at night, solutions are available!
You can practice breathing techniques (e.g. alternate nostril breathing) during the day to encourage your body to breathe through your nose at night. While breathing techniques are beneficial for anyone’s health, they cannot guarantee you will sleep with your mouth closed all night.
Anti-Snoring chin straps allow you to sleep comfortably all night long while ensuring that you are breathing through your nostrils.
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By gently keeping your mouth closed during sleep, anti-snoring chin straps immediately address several symptoms of mouth breathing, including snoring and dry mouth. As an added bonus, high quality anti-snoring chin straps will work with CPAP machines and devices, so individuals suffering from sleep apnea can get the full benefits of both devices!
Hopefully now you understand the importance of avoiding mouth breathing. You should also have a new appreciation for your nose and all of the benefits it provides the whole body! If mouth breathing has interrupted your sleep or taken a toll on your health, take control of your well being today. Your future self will thank you!