We all know what it’s like to have a cold, with a nose so stuffy that you can’t breathe through it.
At times like that, we breathe through our mouths instead, and that’s pretty much how it should work. Mouth-breathing is an emergency backup, not the default. There are many negative effects of mouth-breathing full-time, particularly if the habit begins in childhood.
Why Does Mouth-Breathing Become A Habit?
Many things can lead to a mouth-breathing habit. A small child might get a cold and then simply continue breathing through his mouth when his nose clears. A problem with bite alignment can make it difficult to keep the mouth closed. Persistent allergies, overlarge tonsils, or a deviated septum could make nose-breathing difficult or impossible most of the time. Fortunately, these problems can often be solved by orthodontic treatment or surgery.
Why Mouth-Breathing Is A Problem
In the short term, mouth-breathing leads to a variety of issues, including:
- Dry mouth: mouth-breathing dries out the mouth, removing the first defense against oral bacteria. This can lead to consequences such as chronic bad breath and tooth decay.
- Lack of energy: getting less oxygen by breathing through the mouth will result in poor sleep quality and lowered energy levels overall. For kids, this means difficulty paying attention in school, and for adults, work productivity can suffer.
The negative effects of mouth-breathing don’t stop in the short-term. They can actually be life-altering, particularly when the habit begins in childhood and goes unchecked.
- Facial structure: mouth-breathing can actually lead the bones of the face to develop differently, yielding flat features, drooping eyes, a narrow jaw and dental arch, and a small chin.
- Sleep apnea: the risk of sleep apnea goes up with mouth-breathing, and this can make it difficult to get a restful night’s sleep.
- Orthodontic treatment: the narrowed dental arch of a chronic mouth-breather rarely has enough room for the full set of adult teeth, and this will require orthodontic treatment to correct.
The Benefits Of Nose-Breathing
Breathing through the nose doesn’t just help you avoid the effects of mouth-breathing; it comes with additional benefits too! Here are just a few of them:
- The nose acts as an air filter, delivering clean air to the lungs and reducing the amount of allergens that get in.
- Nose-breathing produces nitric oxide, which helps with oxygen absorption and sterilizes the air.
- Nose-breathing strengthens the immune system by activating immunoglobulin production.
Need Help Building Healthier Breathing Habits?
If you or your child has a mouth-breathing habit, it can be tricky to break, especially if the cause is a physical obstruction that requires treatment. Schedule a dental exam right away so the cause can be detected and you can get on the road to healthier breathing and all the benefits that come with it!