Thanks to the influence of the show Stranger Things. You may have heard the insult “mouth-breather.” If possible, avoid mouth breathing and breath through your nose. Consider mouth breathing a backup plan, not our primary way of breathing. Mouth breathing has adverse health effects in short and the long term.
The Short-Term Effects of Mouth Breathing
There are several side effects of mouth breathing that kick in either very quickly or immediately. Lowered oxygen levels are a major one. Our bodies trigger nitric oxygen production, which helps our lungs absorb oxygen when breathing through our noses. We skip this step when we mouth breathe, making it harder to maximize each breath, resulting in lower absorption of oxygen, absorption and less energy for physical and mental tasks. Here are some other short-term effects:
Impaired speech: A mouth that is always opened, it can make certain sounds more challenging to say.
Inattention, lethargy, and irritability: getting less oxygen means sleeping worse and having a more challenging time focusing at school or work.
Dry mouth: mouth breathing causes your mouth to become dry. With saliva being the first line of defense against oral bacteria, this can become a problem. Saliva also needs to speak clearly and use our senses of taste effectively.
The Mouth Breathing Effects Compound Over Time
The short-term effects are already unpleasant, but if continued, a mouth-breathing habit can lead to worse issues.
Increased likelihood of sleep apnea: Sleep apnea has many health complications, including chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, poor concentration, low energy, and a compromised immune system.
Altered facial development: when a child’s mouth is closed, their tongue exerts pressure on their dental arches, helping them to develop correctly. A mouth-breathing habit takes that pressure away and leads to narrower arches, flat features, drooping eyes, and a small chin.
More complex orthodontic problems: altered facial development will often include a lot of dental crowding and other issues that require orthodontic treatment to correct.
Tooth decay and halitosis (chronic bad breath): These are likely results of dry mouth over time. Saliva helps neutralize oral pH when we consume acidic foods or drinks or when harmful bacteria produce acid, so without saliva, we tend to have worse breath and become more susceptible to tooth decay.
It’s Time to Break the Mouth-Breathing Habit!
Some people breathe through their mouths because of a problem with regular nose-breathing, like a sinus infection or deviated septum, but anyone who can comfortably breathe through their nose should try to do that as their default option. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about mouth breathing and its impacts on oral health.