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Nasal vs. Mouth Breathing

Do you ever breathe through your mouth, even when you're not running or doing something strenuous? It's possible that you'll do it without even realizing. Some people say that as many as half of all people breathe through their mouths sometimes, especially kids. (1)

Mouth breathing can be bad for your health, but you can learn to breathe correctly. Just as you would train yourself for other aspects of wellness, you can learn how to breathe properly. It is not difficult and it may help with many different health problems.

Breathing through your nose instead of your mouth may help you to feel less anxious and stressed, treat sinusitis, get rid of chronic bad breath, snoring, sleep apnea, and even help you to live longer.

You might not think that proper breathing can help you be healthy, but it can! Here's more on proper breathing & some easy changes to help you breathe better.

Why is Mouth Breathing Bad?

Most of the time, mouth breathing is caused by over-breathing. This can cause problems with your lungs after you do something that makes you breathe harder, like playing sports or exercising. (2)

Mouth breathing can lead to nasal congestion and airway obstruction, and it also has the potential to cause dental issues. Bad breath, gingivitis, and dry mouth to name a few. It can even have an impact on children's oral development, resulting in overbite or crowded teeth. (3)

Causes of Mouth Breathing

Some people may breathe through their mouths more often than others. People with longer faces or narrower mouths may have smaller nasal passages. This may mean that they default to mouth breathing, especially during sleep. (4)

Other common causes of mouth breathing include: (5)

  • Blocked nasal passages from allergies, sinus infections, or septal defects

  • Stress

  • Inflammation

  • Pollution

  • Dry indoor air

  • Large adenoids or tonsils

Short and Long Term Effects of Mouth Breathing

Not only does mouth breathing throw off your O2 and CO2 balance, it can also lead to short-term and long-term health effects.

Short term problems can include:

  • Inefficient oxygen exchange, which can result in poorly oxygenated and energized cells

  • Adding unfiltered, dry air to the lungs

  • Decreasing respiratory strength and function

  • Decreasing lung volume

  • Contributing to reduced exercise capacity and stamina

Long term problems can include:

  • Dental and orthodontic problems

  • Gum disease

  • Oral and facial structural issues

  • Jaw disorders (like TMJ)

  • Poor oxygen delivery to tissues, resulting in long-term inflammation

  • Allergies

  • Breathing problems

  • Snoring

  • Sleep apnea

  • Poor sleep quality and sleep disturbances

Benefits of Nasal Breathing:

Do you remember learning about cilia back in elementary school biology? They're tiny hairs inside your nose & airways that continually trap airborne particles, allergies, germs, and other pollutants that don't belong in the body. This protects the lungs and keeps them from entering your respiratory system. Your mouth does not have the same filtering function as your nose when breathing air.

Your nose is important for keeping the air humid and moist. This is good for your lungs. There are also special cells in your nose that help fight germs and viruses. (6)

Our society is always 'go, go, go', and mouth-breathing has become the default for many people. But if we take the time to retrain our bodies to breathe properly, it can have a huge impact on our health and wellness!


  1. De Menezes, V. A., Leal, R. B., Pessoa, R. S., & Pontes, R. M. (2006). Prevalence and factors related to mouth breathing in school children at the Santo Amaro Project-Recife, 2005. Brazilian Journal of Otorhinolaryngology, 72(3), 394–398.

  2. HALLANI, M., WHEATLEY, J. R., & AMIS, T. C. (2008). Enforced mouth breathing decreases lung function in mild asthmatics. Respirology, 13(4), 553–558.

  3. Zhao, Z., Zheng, L., Huang, X., Li, C., Liu, J., & Hu, Y. (2021). Effects of mouth breathing on facial skeletal development in children: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

  4. Woodside, D. G., Linder-Aronson, S., Lundström, A., & McWilliam, J. (1991). Mandibular and maxillary growth after changed mode of breathing. American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, 100(1), 1–18.

  5. Trabalon, M., & Schaal, B. (2012). 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, 1–10.

  6. Muangritdech, N., Hamlin, M. J., Sawanyawisuth, K., Prajumwongs, P., Saengjan, W., Wonnabussapawich, P., Manimmanakorn, N., & Manimmanakorn, A. (2020). Hypoxic training improves blood pressure, nitric oxide and hypoxia-inducible factor-1 alpha in hypertensive patients. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 120(8), 1815–1826.


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