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Is It Bad to Be a Mouth Breather?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

It's natural to breathe through your nose, and doing so helps to warm and filter the air before it reaches your lungs, as the Cleveland Clinic explains. But some people may notice that they often breathe through their mouths during the day or when they sleep. Since breathing through the mouth doesn't have the same benefits as nose breathing, you may wonder, is it bad to be a mouth breather?

Common Causes of Mouth Breathing

While it's normal to breathe through your nose, you may unconsciously breathe through your mouth if your nose is blocked, as the Cleveland Clinic notes. There are many possible reasons why the nasal passages could be blocked, making it hard to breathe through your nose.

Stanford Children's Health notes that some illnesses, such as colds, the flu or sinus infections, can leave you with a stuffy nose. In addition, a nasal reaction to an allergen or irritant, such as pollen or pollution can cause a blocked nose. Growths in the nose's lining, called nasal polyps, may also interfere with airflow through the nose.

Enlarged tissue in the back of the nose can sometimes cause nasal obstruction in children, or young children may even accidentally obstruct their own nose by putting beads or other foreign objects in their nostrils.

How Mouth Breathing Affects Oral Health

If you regularly breathe through your mouth, you may notice that your mouth feels dry. This dryness may be uncomfortable — but what's more, it can lead to oral health complications. The American Dental Association (ADA) reports that dry mouth may lead to bad breath. In addition, the ADA warns that another potential complication of a dry mouth is tooth decay, because without saliva present to wash bacteria off the teeth, plaque can build up and destroy the tooth structure.

Children who often breathe through their mouths may experience other oral health complications, such as malocclusion. This means that their upper and lower teeth don't align properly, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In a study published in the Journal of International Oral Health, researchers found that, compared with nose breathing children, children who breathed through their mouths were more likely to have front teeth that inclined forward. This isn't just a cosmetic concern, either. As the NIH notes, malocclusion can cause difficulties when speaking, biting or chewing.

The textbook Oral Pathology in the Pediatric Patient warns of another potential complication of breathing through the mouth: mouth-breathing gingivitis. When children breathe through their mouths, the constant exposure to air can dry out their gums, leading to inflammation. Children with this condition may have red, swollen gums, and their gums may partially cover the teeth.

Treatments for Mouth Breathing and Related Issues

To learn how to breathe through the nose instead of the mouth, you should see your dentist or doctor for an evaluation. The treatment for mouth breathing will vary depending on its exact cause. Stanford Children's Health reports that some possible treatments include nasal rinses, nasal sprays, oral medications or surgery.

In addition, you may also need treatments for oral complications caused by mouth breathing. To treat dry mouth, the ADA reports that dentists may recommend sugar-free gum, artificial saliva or oral rinses. Braces may be recommended to people with misaligned teeth, and in some cases, clear aligners may be an option, according to the NIH. Breathing through the nose and improving oral hygiene may be all that's required to treat mouth-breathing gingivitis, but in severe cases, dentists may recommend surgery, as the textbook Oral Pathology in the Pediatric Patient explains. You can talk to your dentist to learn more about the treatments that may be available to you.

Regularly breathing through the mouth isn't optimal, and it may cause a number of oral health complications. If you think you're a mouth breather, seek advice from your dentist or doctor.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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