The nose plays a crucial role in our respiratory system, filtering, warming, and humidifying the air before it reaches our lungs. However, sometimes we resort to mouth breathing which comes with its own array of discomforts and problems such as bad breath, dental issues, sleep disturbances, facial and dental changes, and impaired lung function. By understanding these effects, we can explore effective treatments to manage mouth breathing and ensure optimal health. Let’s delve into Mouth breathing and understand its causes, symptoms and treatment.
Mouth Breathing : Meaning
Mouth breathing refers to the act of primarily or exclusively breathing through the mouth instead of the nose. While occasional mouth breathing is normal during physical exertion or when the nasal passages are congested, chronic or habitual mouth breathing occurs when an individual consistently relies on breathing through the mouth even when there are no underlying reasons for nasal obstruction. It is important to note that mouth breathing is generally considered less efficient and beneficial than nasal breathing, as the nose plays a crucial role in filtering, warming, and moisturising the inhaled air, as well as promoting better oxygen exchange in the lungs.
Mouth Breathing : Causes
- Nasal Congestion: Nasal congestion due to allergies, sinusitis, or a deviated septum can obstruct the nasal passages, making it difficult to breathe through the nose and resulting in mouth breathing.
- Chronic Respiratory Conditions: Conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, or bronchitis may cause breathing difficulties, leading to mouth breathing as a compensatory mechanism.
- Structural Abnormalities: Structural issues like enlarged tonsils and adenoids, nasal polyps, or a narrow nasal passage can impede nasal airflow, encouraging mouth breathing.
- Habitual Mouth Breathing: Some individuals develop a habit of mouth breathing, often due to factors like chronic stress, anxiety, or poor oral habits.
Mouth Breathing Symptoms and Effects
If you are wondering how would I know if I am a mouth breather as some of us unconsciously rely on mouth breathing at night, then you can look for the following mouth breathing effects and symptoms.
1. Dry Mouth and Throat:
Mouth breathing bypasses the nasal passages, resulting in reduced moisture levels in the mouth and throat, leading to dryness and potential discomfort.
2. Bad Breath:
Mouth breathing can contribute to dryness in the mouth, reducing saliva production and allowing bacteria to proliferate, causing bad breath.
3. Dental Issues:
Chronic mouth breathing can impact oral health, leading to problems like cavities, gum disease, and malocclusion (misalignment of the teeth or jaw).
4. Sleep Disturbances:
Mouth breathing during sleep, known as sleep-disordered breathing, can disrupt sleep patterns and potentially lead to snoring and sleep apnea.
5. Facial and Dental Changes:
Prolonged mouth breathing, particularly during childhood, may affect facial and dental development, leading to an elongated face, high palate, narrow jaw, and dental malocclusion.
6. Impaired Lung Function:
Nasal breathing allows the air to be properly filtered, humidified, and warmed before reaching the lungs. Mouth breathing bypasses these functions, potentially affecting lung function and oxygen exchange.
Mouth Breathing Treatments
- Address Underlying Causes: Identify and address any underlying medical conditions, such as allergies, chronic respiratory conditions, or structural abnormalities, with the help of healthcare professionals.
- Nasal Decongestant: Use saline nasal sprays or rinses to alleviate nasal congestion and promote nasal breathing. Consult a doctor for appropriate medications if necessary.
- Breathing Exercises: Practise nasal breathing exercises and techniques, such as alternate nostril breathing or pranayama, to encourage habitual nasal breathing and strengthen the nasal passages.
- Oral Myofunctional Therapy: Work with a trained therapist who specialises in oral myofunctional therapy to retrain the muscles of the mouth and promote correct nasal breathing.
- Orthodontic Treatment: In cases where dental or jaw misalignment is present, orthodontic treatment like braces, expanders, or other orthodontic appliances may be recommended to correct the issues.
- Lifestyle Modifications: Maintain good oral hygiene practices, avoid mouth breathing triggers like allergens or irritants, practice stress management techniques, and ensure a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and balanced nutrition.
- Pranayamas: By practising pranayama techniques regularly, individuals can improve their awareness of breath, strengthen the respiratory muscles, and gradually transition from mouth breathing to nasal breathing. The controlled and mindful breathing patterns in pranayama help clear nasal passages, improve lung capacity, and enhance overall respiratory function. Emphasising nasal breathing during pranayama practice helps retrain the body to rely less on mouth breathing, leading to improved respiratory health and reduced mouth breathing habits. Pranayamas like Anulom Vilom, Dirgha- Swas, Diaphragmatic breathing, Bhramari Pranayama can help in curing mouth breathing problems.
Mouth breathing, when chronic, can have detrimental effects on oral health, sleep quality, and overall well-being. Identifying and addressing the underlying causes, along with implementing appropriate treatment options, is crucial for restoring nasal breathing patterns and mitigating the associated symptoms and potential health complications. Consultation with healthcare professionals, such as ENT specialists, dentists, or respiratory therapists, can provide valuable guidance and personalised treatment plans to help individuals transition from mouth breathing and relying on practices such as Pranayama and Breathing techniques can definitely help in the long term