One of the most common questions we hear at Legends Dental is, 'When is it OK to breathe through your mouth?' Ideally, the answer is never, but in reality, sometimes you have to breathe through your mouth, like when you're suffering from a cold or having congestion caused by seasonal allergies. But, mouth breathing regularly is not recommended.

But why? Mouth breathing actually means you are getting less oxygen. It seems weird, right? Your mouth is bigger than your nostrils, so you'd expect that breathing through your mouth would yield more oxygen intake, but it doesn't work that way.

Here's why: Your nose releases nitric oxide, a gas that improves the lungs' ability to absorb oxygen. Nitric oxide also facilitates oxygen transport to the rest of your body and your heart; allows your blood vessels to dilate; and relaxes vascular smooth muscle tissue. This is a significant benefit and will enable you to recover more quickly during sports and exercise, but it also helps to keep your organs healthy.

Nitric oxide is also beneficial because it is antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitic and antibacterial - which means it helps you fight off germs and infections.

Other Benefits of Nose Breathing

There are other advantages of nose breathing, too. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The nose serves as a filter and helps to block small particles such as environmental pollutants and pollen.
  • The nose adds moisture to the air you breath to prevent your lungs, bronchial tubes and other parts of your airway from drying out.
  • The nose also warms up cold air you breathe to body temperature to make it suitable for your lungs.
  • Nose breathing also helps to increase oxygen uptake by maintaining your lungs' elasticity.
  • Breathing through your nose helps to engage nerves in the lungs that stimulate the production of calming hormones, which means you are less stressed.

Signs of Mouth Breathing

In many cases, you may not even know you're breathing through your mouth instead of your nose. This is especially true if you're doing it while you're sleeping. If you're experiencing the following symptoms, you may be breathing through your mouth:

  • Snoring
  • Feeling of a dry mouth or throat
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Waking up hoarse or having to clear your throat in the morning
  • Fatigue, even after sleeping for several hours
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • Dark circles under your eyes

Adults aren't the only group that should be concerned about breathing through the mouth. Children can also be affected, so look out for these signs:

  • Delayed growth or undersized in comparison to their peers
  • Hyperactivity or attention deficit disorder (ADD)
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • More frequent crying episodes at night
  • Nightmares or night terrors
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Dry or cracked lips
  • Daytime fatigue or sleepiness

What Causes Mouth Breathing?

In most cases, mouth breathing is caused by an obstructed (completely or partially blocked) nasal airway. Obstruction can be caused by:

  • Nasal congestion caused by allergies, a cold or a sinus infection
  • Swollen adenoids
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Deviated septum
  • Benign growths of tissue in the lining of the nose
  • Enlarged nasal passages
  • The shape of the nose
  • Size of the jaw

Mouth breathing can be habit-forming, especially after a nasal obstruction clears. It is prevalent in individuals living with sleep apnea as they experience chronic obstruction of the airway.

If you suspect that you or someone you love is breathing through their mouth regularly, it's time to call Legends Dental for a consultation. Call 254-242-0499 now.