Breathing is an essential function that allows your body to survive by providing it with oxygen, along with allowing you to release carbon dioxide and waste. You have two air passageways leading to your lungs; your nose and your mouth. Healthy people will use both their noses and their mouths to breathe. Most of the time, breathing mainly through the mouth will only be necessary if you are suffering from nasal congestion, for example, if your nose is blocked due to a cold or an allergy. And when you’re working out hard, you might find mouth breathing easier – this is because it gets oxygen to your muscles faster. However, breathing through the mouth all the time – particularly when you’re sleeping – can lead to health problems. In children, it can lead to issues such as facial deformities, crooked teeth, or even poor growth, and for adults, it can cause gum disease and bad breath, along with worsening the symptoms of any other illnesses.
Why is it Best to Breathe Through Your Nose?
If you’re like most other people, then you’ve probably found that the importance of breathing through your nose tends to go unnoticed – until you come down with a bad cold and you can’t. A blocked nose can affect your ability to sleep well and function in general, and most people don’t realize just how badly it affects their quality of life until they’re dealing with one. Health-wise, it’s important to breathe through the nose because the nose produces nitrous oxide, which improves the ability of your lungs to absorb oxygen and increases the ability to transport oxygen throughout your body, including inside your heart. It is also antifungal, antiparasitic, antiviral and antibacterial, helping your immune system fight infections.
What Are the Risk Factors Associated with Mouth Breathing?
Anyone can develop a habit of breathing through their mouth rather than their nose – especially when sleeping – but you may be more susceptible if you suffer from certain health conditions, including hay fever, chronic allergies, asthma, chronic or recurring sinus infections, or chronic stress and anxiety.
Which Health Problems Can Mouth Breathing Lead to?
Mouth breathing is very drying for your mouth – and a dry mouth means that the saliva is unable to wash bacteria from the mouth. This can lead to conditions such as halitosis (bad breath), throat and ear infections, or periodontal (gum) disease. In addition, mouth breathing may lead to a reduced oxygen concentration in the blood, which is associated with conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and heart failure. Studies show that mouth breathing may also negatively affect lung function and worsen the symptoms of asthma.
How Can Mouth Breathing be Treated?
The good news is that if you have a habit of breathing through your mouth, it is treatable. If you tend to breathe mainly through your mouth when you are asleep, you can get strips designed to stop snoring that will help you keep your mouth closed while sleeping. You might also try nasal decongestants, antihistamines, or over-the-counter or prescription steroid nasal sprays to make it easier for you to breathe through your nose. If your mouth breathing is a result of a condition called sleep apnea, your doctor will provide you with a facial mask appliance to wear at night called continuous positive air pressure therapy (CPAP), which delivers air to your nose and mouth with pressure that stops your airways from collapsing and becoming blocked. Breathing through your mouth might be the only thing that you can do when you are suffering from a congested nose, but over time, it can lead to health complications.