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At first thought, it doesn’t seem possible that the way we breathe can have a huge impact on our health. In reality, the way you breathe affects virtually every part of the mouth, specifically, mouth breathing can be very damaging to the teeth and gums.
The mouth is healthiest when saliva is available to wash away harmful bacteria on teeth and gums. However, when we mouth breathe, the rate of saliva evaporation increases dramatically. When the mouth dries it out, bacteria flourishes. This can lead to bad breath, cavities, and even gum diseases like periodontis.
Studies show that mouth breathing has a massive impact on tooth decay. When comparing mouth breathers and nasal breathers, researchers found that the group of mouth breathers had a build-up of more plaque on their teeth than nasal breathers. The mouth breathers also had much more bacteria present in their mouths, which can cause tooth decay.
As it turns out, mouth breathing can even affect the appearance and alignment of your teeth. Children who mouth breathe have a greater chance of developing an open bite, where the teeth don’t fully close together, a crossbite, where the upper teeth fit behind the lower teeth, or an overbite, where the upper teeth stick out over the lower teeth. And the issues don’t stop there. Believe it or not, chronic mouth breathing over time can even change the shape of your face.
When we mouth breathe, the upper lip raises and the bottom jaw lowers to keep the mouth open. The tongue, which should remain placed against the roof of the mouth, usually protrudes toward the back of the throat. This leads to an abnormal method of swallowing.
Because of the unnatural way mouth breathers have to position the jaw and tongue, they can also develop “adenoid faces.” Those with adenoid faces usually have narrow nostrils, sunken eyes, a high-arched palate, a protruding upper lip, a toothy smile, and longer faces. This can lead to severe dental crowding.
These issues typically develop in childhood, and can sometimes be so severe that orthodontists cannot correct the dental crowding and bite problems caused by mouth breathing. In extreme cases, jaw surgery and nasal airway surgery may be necessary. It’s very easy to fall into the habit of mouth breathing, especially for those who have nasal congestion.
People with chronic congestion obviously have issues breathing through the nostrils. This becomes an even larger issue when they’re sleeping, since the mouth may come open to ensure they are getting air. Children and adults with allergies experience this consistently and may be most prone to mouth breathing.
Some people with deviated septums are also unable to nasal breathe effectively. The septum is the thin tissue that separates your nostrils. Sometimes, this wall of tissue becomes off-center due to trauma to the nose. It may also be off-center in some people from birth. This can block one or both of your nasal passageways, leading to difficulty breathing through the nostrils. Alternatively, some may be more prone to mouth breathing because of inflamed nasal tissues or nasal tumors.
Others may have sleep apnea, a sleep condition that causes mouth breathing. People with sleep apnea have disruptions in their breathing patterns during the night and may stop breathing due to tissues in the throat blocking their airways. This causes oxygen levels to drop to dangerous levels. Sleep apnea can be diagnosed by a doctor with a sleep study and requires a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. CPAP machines force air into the airways that keep tissues from obstructing passageways. This can help to promote nasal breathing for users.
One final cause of mouth breathing that many people find surprising? Incorrect tongue posture.
Did you know that about half of Americans have incorrect tongue posture? Resting the tongue on the bottom of the mouth or shoved up against the teeth can cause a variety of issues like crooked teeth, a bad bite, teeth grinding, or shifting teeth. Neck pain, jaw pain, and bad posture can all be tied back to tongue posture. Correct tongue posture can help improve breathing, lessen pain, and even help you sleep.
So what is the correct tongue posture? Rest the tongue against the roof of your mouth and place it about half an inch from the teeth. Close the lips and keep the teeth slightly separated. Once you’ve got the correct tongue posture down, focus on nasal breathing to keep your mouth healthy.
It might seem like the increased air volume from mouth breathing would help you absorb more oxygen in comparison to nasal breathing. But in reality, the opposite is actually true. Nasal breathing keeps more air in the lungs for a longer period of time compared to mouth breathing. This is due to the resistance that nasal breathing puts on your airflow. As a result there is more time for oxygen to be absorbed and CO2 levels increase to optimal levels. This leads to more efficient oxygenation.
Nasal breathing also warms the air you breathe and add moisture to it as you inhale. This causes the temperature of your breath to rise, which can help to maintain body temperature during cold weather and prime the air for respiration in the lungs.
Additionally, since the nasal passageways are filled with nose hair that filters foreign objects, nasal breathing can remove germs, bacteria, dust, and particles before you breathe them in.
Lastly, nasal breathing releases nitric oxide, which helps to regulate the immune system, stress, and blood pressure. Mouth breathing does not release nitric oxide.
All this goes to show that there are countless benefits to nasal breathing. Pay special attention to your breathing during the day and make it a conscious effort to nasal breathe rather than mouth breathe. When you’re asleep, apply mouth strips to keep nasal breathing during the night.
If you’re worried about your dental health - or your overall health for that matter - nasal breathing is the easiest way to maintain great oral hygiene. Tape your way to better teeth! Avoid mouth breathing during sleep with SomniFix - comfortable mouth strips that help you get a soothing night’s rest and fortify your oral health.
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