What the hell is this about nasal breathing?

“But nasal breathing is not a panacea. It’s something most of us do naturally. An exception is if we are running – the nose has more resistance to airflow, so it is easier to get more oxygen quickly when breathing through the mouth.

We all become mouth breathers sometimes if we get a stuffy nose from a cold, for example, but if you’re one of the minority of people who breathe through your mouth most of the time, or while sleeping, it is best to find the cause and treat it. — not reaching for the duct tape, King said.

“The usual reason for mouth breathing is a blocked nose – common causes are allergies or structural issues like a deviated septum, where the cartilage separating one nostril from the other is in the wrong position,” he says.

“In children, this could be due to the size of their adenoids (lymph nodes at the back of the nasal cavity in children). People with asthma have a higher prevalence of mouth breathing, but it is not clear whether asthma causes mouth breathing or whether mouth breathing causes asthma.”

Mouth breathing at night can also be caused by sleep apnea, where the throat muscles relax so much that they limit the amount of air reaching the lungs. It is exacerbated by sleeping on your back, drinking alcohol and being overweight – fatty deposits around the neck can narrow the airways during sleep, while fat around the middle can encourage mouth breathing, says King.

“Losing weight, even just a portion of the weight, may be enough to improve sleep apnea and mouth breathing.”

When it comes to clues that you breathe through your mouth at night, waking up regularly with a dry mouth is a reliable sign — and it can lead to dental issues.

“Mouth breathing can dry out the mouth – saliva protects teeth, so if deficient, teeth may be more susceptible to decay,” says Dr Amanda Phoon Nguyen, oral medicine specialist and spokesperson for the ‘Australian Dental Association.

“The research should be interpreted with caution. I think there is scaremongering going on. If parents are concerned about a child’s mouth breathing, check to see what’s going on.

“There are also concerns that, in children, breathing through the mouth can cause crowding of the teeth and problems with facial development, but this is controversial because many variables, including children’s individual growth, can make this difficult. to study. You should interpret the research with caution.

“I think there is scaremongering going on. If parents are concerned about a child’s mouth breathing, find out what’s going on, but if a dentist or doctor suggests an expensive treatment, a second opinion might be a good idea.


Alarming claims about mouth breathing causing problems with facial development, behavior and learning in children are nothing new to Dr. Chris Seton, a pediatric and adolescent sleep physician at the Woolcock Institute.

“But only 5 to 6% of children breathe through their mouths. Peak time is around age three, when the tonsils and adenoids are at their peak and can make breathing through your nose more difficult. But by age five, they’ve usually shrunk a bit and the problem goes away.

“Good GPs know that not all mouth breathing or snoring in children is a problem. If there are any concerns, a referral for a sleep study at a sleep clinic can check to see if there is any blockage or sleep apnea Only about a third of children who are referred need treatment – ​​70% do not.”

While there are overnight mouth taping products, Seton wouldn’t recommend it for children or adults.

“If someone has a stuffy nose, taping their mouth can reduce their oxygen level even further, so they wake up more often.”

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