The Impact of Mouth Breathing on Your Health
Normal breathing is done most often through the nose, but when people breathe mostly through the mouth it’s called “open-mouth breathing” or “mouth breathing.” Breathing through the mouth can have a variety of negative effects on a person’s health, especially if it starts in childhood.
Sometimes it’s normal to breathe through the mouth, such as when you’re exerting yourself during intense exercise, but most of the time breathing should be done through the nose. Nose breathing is better because it supports slower exhalation of air, which provides better absorption of oxygen into the bloodstream.
What are the causes?
This disorder can be caused by structural defects, poor habits or health problems that obstruct the nasal passages. About 85% of the time, the problem develops because of nasal obstruction. There are some structural defects in the face that can force a person to breathe through the mouth. Some examples are nasal polyps that obstruct the nasal passages and a short upper lip that prevents the mouth from fully closing when at rest. A long thin face can make a person more predisposed to breathing through the mouth because this type of facial structure has a thinner nasal airway that inhibits airflow.
What are the health consequences?
Open-mouth breathing leads to faster exhalation, thereby reducing the oxygen levels in the blood. When there is less oxygen supplied to the cells, muscles and the brain, a variety of health problems can develop, mentions Texan ENT. Breathing with the mouth open during sleep can dry out the mouth, which leads to problems such as gingivitis, gum disease, bad breath, and increased tooth decay.
The oxygen deprivation from mouth breathing can cause serious consequences for adults, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea. In children, open-mouth breathing has been linked to abnormal facial growth, poor academic performance, and Attention Deficit Disorder.
When the disorder starts in childhood, it can cause posture problems and mouth deformations. In order to breathe through the mouth, the head needs to rest in a forward position with slumped shoulders. This posture can lead to an adverse spinal curvature.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Some mouth breathers are not aware of their problem. They may have their mouths closed when sitting still, but open their mouth as soon as they start walking around. Other signs of the disorder are chewing with the mouth open and dry mouth when waking in the morning. Mouth breathers may find that they need to carry around a bottle of water and use lip balm frequently.
If you notice that you or your child has a combination of these symptoms, you could have a doctor or dentist check for signs of mouth breathing and render a diagnosis. Treating the disorder can be difficult if the patient has to unlearn years of bad habits and retrain the facial muscles and body posture. Depending on the cause of the disorder, treatments are available in the forms of medications, physical therapy, and surgeries.