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  • Writer's pictureDr. Saumitra Saravana

Mouth Breathing Vs. Nasal Breathing

Proper breathing is vitally important for our health. This might sound strange coming from a Dentist but Dentists are in a unique position to help screen their patients for breathing disorders. Dentists may be the first healthcare professionals to have contact with children who might be mouth breathers. I feel that it is very important for us to screen children for mouth breathing. So, why is it important for us to breathe through our noses?

Proper breathing through the nose helps us breathe better. Firstly breathing in through our nose helps get rid most of the allergens and microbes in the air. Secondly, the air gets humidified naturally and lastly gets mixed with nitric oxide from the sinus area. This mixing with nitric oxide is thought to increase the ability to absorb oxygen.

When we breathe out through our nostrils, it actually takes us longer to exhale. This is important because absorption of oxygen actually happens during exhalation. So the increase in time that it takes for us to breathe out through our noses helps us absorb oxygen better. It is thought that you actually absorb Oxygen around 15% better when you exhale through your nose when compared to mouth breathing.

So, while this is all good but what is the big deal if you are a mouth breather. Firstly we have to

recognize that mouth breathing is not natural and if you are a mouth breather or know someone who is a mouth breather there could be an underlying cause for the habit. This might be enlarged adenoids or tonsils, deviated nasal bones which might block the passage of airway. What is important to realize is that for someone to breathe through their mouths they have to keep their mouths open right? They also have to habitually position the tongue in a lower and forward position to help breathe better. Amazingly this simple abnormal positioning of the tongue is thought to cause growth abnormalities in children. This positioning of the tongue is thought to cause what is known as the "Long Face Syndrome". This is not a particularly attractive look and braces and sometimes corrective jaw surgery might be needed to correct his problem. Positioning the tongue lower causes the upper jaw to be constricted, leading to narrow crowded arches. Also tongue posture will lead to a tongue thrust habit leading to an abnormal swallow pattern which causes teeth to get flared with unsightly gaps in them.

Also, keeping your mouth open for prolonged periods of time will dry your mouth. Mouth and the structures inside them function well in a moist environment. Dry mouth will lead to sore and irritated gums, bad breath and higher rates of getting tooth decay.

Perhaps the most important reason to really pay attention how we breathe is how many kids who have sleep and breathing disorders are mouth breathers. Mouth breathing and snoring during sleep in children is strongly linked to breathing or sleep problems. Snoring during sleep is estimated to occur about 15% of children, 2% of whom might have sleep apnea. It is strange but many children have breathing disorders and are not getting enough air in! Getting less oxygen will lead them feeling tired and lethargic. They are also frequently distracted and may be misdiagnosed as having ADHD. Many times children with breathing disorders have prolonged bed wetting issues. Gasping for breath might cause them to loose bladder control.

So now that you know more about this subject, is anyone in your family a mouth breather? Do you know if your child snores? Get your child in for a free dental and oral checkup. Call us at 540 370 8504 to make your appointment today!


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