Mouth breathing starts when we can't get enough air through the nose. This may happen for a variety of reasons, including allergies, an obstruction in the nasal sinuses (such as swollen nasal turbinates, nasal polyps, enlarged tonsils or adenoids or a deviated septum) or from insufficient expansion of the palate as we grow, often resulting in the development of a narrow nasal airway. This forces us to breathe through the mouth out of sheer necessity and can become a lifelong habit that can lead to health issues over time if not corrected.
Is Mouth Breathing Harmful?
Mouth breathing forces the tongue to rest in the floor of the mouth instead of up against the palate where it should be, which in turn can cause issues with proper craniofacial growth, chewing, swallowing and sleep. We are supposed to breathe through our nose, where several important processes occur: the inhaled air is warmed, filtered, humidified and mixed with a substance called nitric oxide, an important chemical produced in the nasal sinuses, that travels to the lower airways and acts to dilate blood vessels, increasing blood flow throughout the body and lowering blood pressure and congestion. Conversely, breathing through the mouth can contribute to a variety of health and dental problems such as higher blood pressure, sleep disordered breathing, headaches, dry mouth, sore throat, bad breath, cavities and chronic congestion.
How To Treat Mouth Breathing
Mouth breathing may seem like an easy habit to change - just close your mouth, right?
Unfortunately, for people who struggle with mouth breathing, it's not that easy. The body simply doesn't know how to breathe normally, and over time, the muscles of the face, tongue and throat compensate and learn to work incorrectly. If the muscles are not retrained, problems with general health, speech, orthodontic treatment, dental health, swallowing and breathing may persist throughout life.
A myofunctional therapist can be instrumental in helping you learn to breathe in a healthy way, and the switch from mouth breathing to nasal breathing can result in a cascade of positive changes to your health and quality of life!