How to Stop Mouth Breathing (& Improve Your Health in the Process)
The hazards of mouth breathing popped up in the news cycle recently, thanks to a celebrity performing some do-it-yourself Buteyko on Instagram. The post quickly went viral, probably because images of people with their mouths taped shut tend to be a little, well, startling.
But while pictures of mouth-taping can provide the internet (and popstars) with some much-desired clickbait, that has little to do with genuine Buteyko Breathing, which is both well-researched and well-respected. In England, it’s recognized by their National Health System as a complementary treatment for improving asthma control.
While it can seem simple and straightforward, though, Buteyko is not do-it-yourself. The technique should be taught by a trained health professional, who may suggest mouth taping – or not.
However, we’re guessing many people who do habitually breathe through their mouth get to that “I’ll try anything” point when they see any article or post that offers a potential solution. They’re tired of their health constantly being compromised.
Or worse, they’re just tired, period.
More importantly, if you’re always sleeping with your mouth open, it may be a sign of something bigger – like structural issues. Mouth taping doesn’t begin to address that.
Not sure if you’re a mouth breather? Symptoms include snoring, dry mouth, bad breath, hoarseness, exhaustion, irritability, chronic fatigue, brain fog, and dark circles under your eyes.
Some chronic dental problems can be a sign, too, as mouth breathing can dry out your gums and other soft tissues, triggering changes in the bacterial balance of your mouth. This raises the risk of both gum disease and tooth decay.
The health woes for kids who mouth breathe are even more challenging, in part because they’re still growing. A paper in General Dentistry offers a good summary of the effects:
Children whose mouth breathing is untreated may develop long, narrow faces, narrow mouths, high palatal vaults, dental malocclusion, gummy smiles, and many other unattractive facial features. . . . These children do not sleep well at night due to obstructed airways; this lack of sleep can adversely affect their growth and academic performance. Many of these children are misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and hyperactivity.
Sound like someone you know?
A more recent study likewise found that, like adults, mouth-breathing kids and teens are at greater risk for gingivitis, caries, and plaque buildup, even when they practice good oral hygiene!
As ever, the key to addressing these issues involves finding and treating the cause.
In most cases – roughly 85% – mouth breathing is simply a subconscious response to not getting enough air through the nose. Starved for oxygen, the body responds to get what it needs through a constricted airway.
So the next question is whether it’s due to a structural issue – an airway that’s just too narrow, say, or a deviated septum – or if it’s more a matter of habit that may be corrected through something as simple as a course of myofunctional therapy.
If a narrow airway is the culprit, we have ways of remodeling it in children and adults alike. One of the most effective methods involves the DNA appliance. This FDA-approved device works on the concepts of Pneumopedics® and Craniofacial Epigenetics to actually remodel the airway, making it easier to breathe freely and consistently, day or night.
When done in conjunction with myofunctional therapy, nutritional changes, and other supportive therapies, the results can be profound.
Another option for adults is Nightlase, a minimally invasive laser procedure that consists of three 20-minute treatments over a six-week period, with the results lasting up to a year. The laser lets us tighten the tissues around the airway by renaturing and restructuring the collagen. The result is more room for air to get through to the lungs.
Such therapies actually address the root cause in a non-invasive way, providing long-term relief. It’s the approach we prefer.
Bottom line? Mouth breathing is not normal, and in fact can pave the way to a laundry list of preventable health challenges. Talk with us before that happens.