A person mouth breathing while sleeping.
Healthy Living

How Mouth Breathing Can Lead to Health Issues

Jul 7 2021

One of the most common issues that brings someone to see Matthew Vajen, DO, an otolaryngologist, or ear, nose and throat specialist, is the person’s inability to breathe through their nose.

“Humans are primarily nasal breathers,” Dr. Vajen shares. “The nose moistens the air we take in to prevent dryness in our bronchial tubes and lungs while also filtering out allergens and particulates. We are not supposed to breathe only through our mouths.”

We all breathe through our mouths sometimes, usually because we need to take in more oxygen while exercising or because we’re congested due to a cold or allergies. However, breathing through the mouth permanently can lead to health issues.

“People who breathe exclusively through their mouths may snore and experience dry mouth, bad breath, cavities, gum disease, reactive airway disease or asthma. They can also experience sleep apnea, which itself is linked with some serious health concerns,” Dr. Vajen says.

Possible culprits that lead to mouth breathing include nasal obstructions such as polyps, or enlarged turbinates, which are the network of bones, vessels and tissue in the nasal passageway. Nasal obstructions are also linked with chronic sinus infections, known as sinusitis, that can lead to mouth breathing. Surgery can remove obstructions that lead to mouth breathing or sinusitis.

“In addition, people who have a history of nose fractures may have a distortion of the bones of the nose which can impact their ability to breathe through the nose,” Dr. Vajen notes. “They may experience nasal valve collapse, which occurs when this narrow part of the airway weakens and collapses inward.”

He adds, “to restore their breathing, they may need more than septoplasty, a procedure that straightens the nose. Functional rhinoplasty can address significant abnormalities of the nose that contribute to obstruction and correct a collapsed nasal valve, all of which can improve air flow.”

Learn more about the ear, nose and throat (ENT) services we offer at Mercy Health.

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