Breathing is an essential biological process that provides your body with the oxygen it requires for survival while eliminating waste and carbon dioxide. Your lungs have two air passageways – the mouth and the nose, and healthy people use both passageways for breathing. But can mouth breathing cause oral health issues?
Genesis Family Dentistry provides an answer to this question and more in the article below!
Is it okay to breathe through your mouth?
It depends. While it is okay to breathe through the mouth, consistent mouth breathing can be a sign of an underlying health issue.
Breathing through your mouth is only necessary when you have a blocked nose due to a cold, congestion, or allergies or when you’re doing intense exercise. During these situations, breathing through your mouth can help you get air in and out of your lungs quicker.
However, experts agree that nose breathing has more benefits than mouth breathing since the nose processes the air differently than the mouth. Some of the benefits of nose breathing include:
The lungs prefer an ideal air temperature for its optimal function. The nose helps cool or warm the air we take into our lungs, but the mouth cannot achieve this.
Humidifies the air you breathe
When you inhale, your nasal passage moistens the air. The mouth cannot do this efficiently; that’s why some mouth breathers complain of sore throat or dry mouth when they wake up from sleep.
The nose has small, hair-like structures known as cilia that help filter out debris and toxins and send them to the throat instead of the lungs. But when you breathe with your mouth, you direct everything you inhale into the lungs.
The nose can perceive harmful smells and substances in your food or air. The mouth does not have the olfactory receptor neurons that can sense these toxins as efficiently.
Causes of mouth breathing
In most cases, the cause of mouth breathing is a clogged (partially or entirely blocked) nasal airway. If there’s an obstruction in your nasal airway, your body automatically resorts to breathing through your mouth to provide the oxygen it needs for survival.
Some of the issues that contribute to a blocked nose include:
- The shape of your nose
- The size and shape of your jaw
- Enlarged turbinates
- Benign growths of tissue or nasal polyps in your nose lining
- Deviated septum
- Enlarged tonsils
- Enlarged adenoids
- Nasal congestion caused by sinus infection, cold, or allergies
Some people develop mouth breathing habits even after the obstruction in their nasal airway is gone. People with sleep apnea may develop the habit of sleeping with their mouths open to accommodate their oxygen needs.
Anxiety and stress can also lead to mouth breathing. Stress triggers the patient’s sympathetic nervous system, which leads to quick, shallow, and abnormal breathing.
Symptoms of mouth breathing
It may not be easy to know if you’re a mouth breather, especially if this habit happens while you sleep. Symptoms of mouth breathing include:
- Dark circles under your eyes
- Brain fog
- Chronic fatigue
- Feeling irritable and tired when you wake up
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Dry mouth
Symptoms in children
Unlike adults, children may not be able to tell you how they feel or communicate their symptoms. That’s why parents need to check their kids for signs of mouth breathing to correct the issue early.
Children who breathe through their mouths will most likely snore at night like adults. Children who engage in the habit for most of the day will probably have the following symptoms:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Problems concentrating on their studies at school (Children with this issue are often misdiagnosed with hyperactivity or attention deficit disorder (ADD).)
- Dry, cracked lips
- Large tonsils
- Increased crying episodes at night
- Slower growth rate
Can mouth breathing cause oral health issues?
The short answer – yes. While it may seem harmless, this habit has been closely linked to several oral health conditions. Mouth breathing decreases saliva production and dries up the saliva in your mouth, which does a lot of work to preserve your oral health.
Saliva neutralizes the mouth acidity and flushes away bacteria. When saliva is dried up, the risk of pathological gum inflammation, periodontal disease, halitosis, and tooth decay increases since there is no saliva to provide a beneficial protective mechanism.
Moreover, the habit leaves the jaw open for extended periods, leading to crooked teeth, facial deformities, and other jaw issues, especially in children. Besides oral health concerns, mouth breathing can also lead to other health conditions like:
- Enlarged adenoids and tonsils
- Frequent sinus infection
- Greater risk for complications like asthma
- Difficulty swallowing
- Higher chances for sleep apnea and snoring
- Impeded or changed speech
Possible treatment options
Diagnosing and correcting mouth breathing begins with a thorough checkup and consultation to identify the underlying cause of the problem. Then we will develop a treatment plan to address the issue.
Apart from working with a dentist, oral surgeons, and orthodontists, you may also need to work with other healthcare practitioners, such as speech pathologists, sleep doctors, and ENTs (ear, nose, and throat specialists), to correct the issue.
Meet the Genesis Family Dentistry dental team
Are you struggling with poor oral health due to your mouth breathing habit or other conditions? We can help!
At Genesis Family Dentistry, we have an experienced team of dental professionals in uptown Charlotte who strives to provide you with optimal dental care to help keep your smile beautiful and healthy. Contact us today to ask how we can help you avoid oral health issues and get the healthy smile you deserve!