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Updated on October 5, 2022

Mouth Breathing: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

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Mouth Breathing Overview

People normally breathe through their nose and only through the mouth when necessary. Mouth breathing tends to happen when you’re: 

  1. Doing strenuous physical activity like exercising
  2. Sleeping
  3. Congested and can’t breathe through your nose

Nasal breathing is better for your health. Nose breathing has many advantages over mouth breathing, including:6

  • Filtering the air 
  • Moisturizing the air
  • Improving oxygen absorption

Is Mouth Breathing Bad?

Occasional mouth breathing is normal, but chronic mouth breathing can lead to health problem, including:1, 4

  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Poorly aligned teeth
  • Jaw problems
  • Speech and swallowing difficulties
  • Enlarged tonsils and adenoids
  • Worsening asthma symptoms

What Causes Mouth Breathing?

Usually, mouth breathing happens because of an obstructed nasal airway. A partial or complete blockage can prevent airflow into the nasal passages. 

If your body can't get enough oxygen through your nose, it turns to mouth breathing. 

Several conditions cause blocked nasal airways and increase the risk of mouth breathing, including:2

Symptoms of Mouth Breathing

There are a few signs that point to chronic mouth breathing. It’s important to note that children can have additional symptoms.

Mouth breathing can cause various symptoms, including:3

Additional symptoms for children may include:  

  • Abnormal facial development — breathing through the mouth can cause the face to develop differently. It may appear long and narrow with a receding chin.
  • Behavior problems — children may develop similar issues to those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They may be irritable and have problems concentrating at school.
  • Malocclusion — this misalignment of the teeth can cause problems with chewing and speaking. It's more likely to happen during childhood as the teeth erupt. Malocclusion may also cause jaw pain.

Diagnosing Mouth Breathing

It's important to see your doctor if you’re experiencing chronic mouth breathing. They can perform a physical examination to identify the cause of any persistent nasal congestion. 

They may ask about your symptoms and if you experience the following issues:

  • Problems sleeping
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Sinus issues like nasal polyps or congestion 

Once they find the underlying cause, they can recommend treatment.

Your dentist may diagnose mouth breathing during a routine dental examination. They may notice that you have bad breath, frequent cavities, or gum disease (fiery red gums) that does not appear to be associated with the usual causes.

If your doctor or dentist notices symptoms, they may refer you to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist.

Mouth Breathing Treatment

The treatment for mouth breathing depends on the underlying cause. It may include:1

  • Antihistamines
  • Nasal decongestants
  • Steroid nasal spray 
  • Dental appliances 
  • A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine 
  • Surgery 
  • Adhesive strips 
  • Myofunctional therapy 

Can You Prevent Mouth Breathing? 

It may not always be possible to prevent mouth breathing. However, you can lower your risk by:7

  • Practicing nose breathing 
  • Blowing your nose or using a nasal wash
  • Using extra pillows when you sleep
  • Reducing stress with yoga, meditation, and deep breathing 
  • Keeping your house clean to reduce allergy triggers
  • Consuming local honey during allergy season 

Outlook for Mouth Breathers

Mouth breathing is highly treatable and has a positive outlook. You can reduce the risk of long-term complications by seeking treatment as soon as possible.

Summary

People should usually breathe through their nose because this warms, humidifies, and filters inhaled air. However, nasal obstructions can cause someone to breathe through their mouth. 

Mouth breathing is a common problem that can lead to health complications if left untreated. These include sleep disorders, facial structure changes, tooth decay, gum disease, poorly aligned teeth, and jaw problems.

Visit a doctor to discuss treatment options if you have symptoms of mouth breathing. It's highly treatable with medications, dental appliances, and surgery.

7 Sources Cited
Last updated on October 5, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Mouth Breathing.” Cleveland Clinic, 2022. 
  2. Trabalon, M., et al. “It takes a mouth to eat and a nose to breathe: abnormal oral respiration affects neonates' oral competence and systemic adaptation.” International Journal of Pediatrics, 2012.
  3. Abreu, R.R., et al. “Etiology, clinical manifestations and concurrent findings in mouth-breathing children.” Journal of Pediatrics, 2008.
  4. Tamkin, J. “Impact of airway dysfunction on dental health.” Bioinformation, 2020.
  5. Hallani, M., et al. “Enforced mouth breathing decreases lung function in mild asthmatics.” Respirology, 2008.
  6. What Are the Advantages of Nose Breathing Vs. Mouth Breathing?” Dental Logic, 2021.
  7. 7 Ways to Stop Mouth Breathing.” Colorado ENT and Allergy, 2022.
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