Are You Breathing Effectively?

mouth breather

Are You Breathing Effectively?

20 / MARTHA MACALUSO, MLT, RDH, MSED, MYOFUNCTIONAL THERAPIST

Did you know that your breathing method can cause detrimental health effects down the road if performed incorrectly?  It is known that humans take over 20,000 breaths per day.  Breathing is an essential part of life.  It is described as small gentle breaths in and out of the nose.  But in the case of a person who predominantly breathes through the mouth, proper nasal breathing can be nearly impossible to achieve.

Do you breathe through your mouth?

Mouth breathing is characterized as breathing in and out of your mouth repeatedly.  If you are unsure if you or someone you know is suffering from mouth breathing; simply observe them as they breathe for three minutes straight.  If they’ve had their mouth open the entire time regardless of whether or not they have a cold etc; chances are that they are a victim of mouth breathing.

Health Consequences Due To Mouth Breathing

As we know mouth breathing can be detrimental to your overall health.  Proper nasal breathing is essential for proper facial growth and development as well as increased quality of life.  When you breathe through your nose, you inhale small traces of the gas nitric oxide; which provides a variety of benefits to your overall health such as regulating your blood pressure and more. These benefits are decreased in the case of a mouth breathing individual.

Studies have shown that mouth breathing can help set the stage for life-long respiratory problems.  Mouth breathing can also be associated with:

-Crooked Teeth- When you breathe through your mouth, your tongue will be forced to sit low and forward on the floor of your mouth, hence pushing up against the teeth. A mouth breathing individual will also develop flaccid lips due to the poor oral resting posture they develop. When the muscles surrounding the lips are low toned, they will not be able to adequately house the teeth. This will then lead to crooked teeth.

-Narrowing of The Nasal Airways- a mouth breathing individual will always carry their tongue low and forward on the floor of the mouth. This can lead to creating a long narrow face, a high vaulted palate, and decreasing the size of the upper nasal airway as seen in the image below.

                           mouth breather

Image courtesy of Barbara Greene

-Gum Disease- Mouth breathing will impact your teeth and gums.  When you breathe through your mouth, your mouth will become dry and will make the bacteria in your mouth more aggressive. This can further lead to inflammation and gum disease.

-Other issues that are associated with mouth breathing include asthma, high blood pressure, hyperventilation, reduced sports performance, and other cascading health effects.

What Contributes To Mouth Breathing?

There are many reasons why some people may prefer to breathe through their mouth, rather than their nose; some of which may include:

-Enlarged Tonsils and Adenoids- Tonsils and adenoids are part of your immune system.  The tonsils are two round lumps found in the back of your throat.  The adenoids are found high above the tonsils behind the nose and are not visible from your nose and or throat.  If they are enlarged they can contribute to a blocked airway.  Many studies have shown that people with enlarged tonsils/adenoids are more prone to having sleep breathing disorders such as sleep apnea.

When a person suffers from these enlargements, not only will their airway be blocked, but they can also contribute to an abnormal swallowing pattern known as a tongue thrust (when the tongue comes forward and presses against the teeth during swallowing and speech).  This irregular swallowing pattern can set the stage for dental problems and affect your overall health.

-Restricted Maxillary Frenum-The maxillary frenum is the string underneath your upper lip.  It is located between your two upper front teeth and may create a space between your two upper front teeth which is known as a diastema.  Having this restriction can also lead to habitual mouth breathing; as the person will not be able to keep a closed-lip posture due to the restriction,

Other contributing factors may include allergies, sinus trouble, frequent colds, and Many more…

Mouth Breathing Treatments

There are many treatments available that help with mouth breathing. Below are a few things that may help.

-Buteyko Breathing Exercises- Buteyko breathing, is a series of breathing re-education exercises that can help reverse mouth breathing. It has been proven to help those suffering from mouth breathing, asthma, and including snoring among others.

-Myofunctional Therapy-  Myofucntional therapy is a neuromuscular re-education program, that helps to establish the proper orofacial balance of the muscles of the head and neck. Often these muscles are greatly impacted due to mouth breathing and may contribute to many issues down the road if not properly addressed.

-Nasal Breathing Strips- These can be placed on the nose to help open up the nasal area and may help decrease snoring if the nose is blocked.

-Taping- Taping your mouth at night with a small piece of micro-pore paper tape going vertically from underneath your nose to your chin can help eliminate mouth breathing during your sleep and may help decrease snoring.

-Nose cones- They can be used to open up the nostrils, and help establish nasal breathing at night as well.

-Ear Nose and Throat Doctor- While trying all of these remedies may help, it is important to get to the root of the cause.  A visit to your ENT may be advised.

Mouth breathing affects many of us nowadays.  The quality of air we breathe, the foods we eat, and even some hereditary facial traits that we inherit from our parents can play a major role in this.  Have you tried any of these tips?

References:

  1. Haight JS1, Djupesland PG. Nitric oxide (NO) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Sleep Breath. 2003 Jun;7(2):53-62.
  2. Fitzpatrick MF, McLean H, Urton AM, Tan A, O’Donnell DE, Driver HS. Effect of nasal or oral breathing route on upper airway resistance during sleep. Eur Respir J 2003;22:827–832
  3. Childhood sleep disorder breathing: A dental perspectiv. ISBN: 978-1-4557-0318-0; PII: B978-1-4557-0318-0.00034-6; Author: Sheldon & Kryger & Ferber & Gozal; 00034
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