Does that face look familiar when you breathe? If this is how you look when you breathe, then this post is for you.
It is perfectly natural to breathe through your mouth at certain times, but if you’ve become a habitual mouth breather, you may want to reconsider stopping this bad habit.
Why? Aside from chronic health problems it can bring, breathing through your mouth can actually change the shape of your face and alter your appearance. This is especially true for children because they are still growing. Children whose mouth breathing goes untreated may suffer from abnormal facial and dental development in the future
The effects of proper breathing habits were first noted in observations of early Native Americans, who were known for their chiseled jaws and beautiful teeth. These physical attributes were thought to be directly related to the fact that Native Americans had learned from childhood to breathe through their noses. This theory was scientifically proven more recently in tests using monkeys. Monkeys that had their noses plugged, which necessitated respiration through their months, began to show changes in their facial development.
So What Is The Cause of Mouth Breathing?
Mouth-breathing often starts in childhood and may result from certain health disorders, including allergies and enlarged tonsils. If not corrected, the habit can continue to change the person’s face throughout his or her life. Depending on the extent of the problem, the chin may continue to recede the jaw and cheeks. As this occurs, the tissue can over time change the shape of the nose. Mouth-breathing can even have adverse effects on the straightness of the teeth by bringing about changes in the tongue and jaw.
What Are The Side Effects Of Mouth Breathing?
Using the mouth for breathing disrupts our natural body mechanics. It can affect a number of bodily functions and lead to symptoms such as:
- Gingivitis and gum disease
- A sore throat and cold symptoms
- Bad breath and higher risk for cavities
- Poor sleep—leading to chronic fatigue
- Digestive disturbances—gas, upset stomach, acid reflux, etc.producing, bacterial infections and reducing a person’s oxygen supply.
The inhaling and exhaling of air through the mouth has been linked to physical changes in the face.
Physical Side Effects of Mouth Breathing:
- long, narrow faces and mouths
- less defined cheekbones
- small lower jaws
- “weak” chin
How Does Mouth Breathing Change The Shape Of A Face?
Mouth breathing causes the mouth to grow in more of a forward and downward direction. This can, in turn, cause the face to sag and the chin to recede, adversely affecting a person’s appearance. The proper development of the airway is thus necessary when it comes to maintaining proper “oral posture” and preventing these physical changes.
The picture above shows that the normal growth of the face is forward, and this is achieved having proper oral posture, which is the pressure exerted by the tongue as it rests in the roof of the mouth. Since a mouth-breathing child/person does not rest his or her tongue on the roof of the mouth, the jaws are unable to be properly shaped by the tongue, and the natural forward growth of the jaws is impeded and causes flatter cheeks. This results in jaws that are set back from their ideal position, compromising airflow.
Not only is there a physical change in the facial development, but mouth breathing will adversely affect body posture.
In the mouth breather, the head is pitched or tilted backward increasing the mass of cranial contents in the posterior part of the cranium. If the person is able to improve the cranial posture by establishing nasal breathing then the cranium will have the opportunity to grow with a more favorable pattern. This improved pattern will be reflected throughout the cranium including the dental arches.
For correct development of the jaws, face, and airways, it is imperative to habitually breathe through the nose. Breathing through the nose with the tongue resting on the roof of the mouth helps to establish the ideal conditions for the normal development of the face. The practice of breathing through the mouth can eventually reduce the size of the airway due to changes in the jaw, leading to obstructive sleep apnea.
For correct craniofacial growth to take place, early intervention with nasal breathing and tongue posture is essential. The negative effects of mouth breathing on the structure of the jaws and face will have the most impact when they occur before puberty, so there is only a brief window of opportunity to avoid significant changes in a facial structure.
How To Stop Mouth Breathing
I know it may not be easy for everyone to breathe through their nose, but I’ve compiled some tips to help you alleviate any problems.
- Use Nasal Dilator Strips
If you have a very narrow nose then you may be prone to have flimsy nostrils. You can test if you have flimsy nostrils by taking both index fingers and pressing them just beside your nostrils on your cheek. Firmly press on your cheeks, lift skin upwards and sideways, pointing towards the outer corners of your eyes. Take a deep breath in.If you can breathe much better through your nose then you may benefit from using nasal dilator strips at night.
Another way of treating this condition are various internal dilators (such as Nozovent, Breathe Nasal cones) that you can find over the counter or here.
2. Try Saline Sprays
You can use the simple spray bottles that put out a fine mist, to more sophisticated methods such as aerosol cans or even using a Water-pik machine (there’s a nasal adaptor that you can buy for this). Another popular variation is something called a Neti pot, which uses gravity to pour salt water into your nose and sinuses. You can either use prepared saline packages or mix your own recipe (one cup of lukewarm water and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt or Kosher salt with a pinch of baking soda). Whatever method you use, try to do it frequently to get maximum results. Besides cleansing out mucous, pollutants and allergens, saline also acts as a mild decongestant.
3. Don’t eat within three hours before sleeping
If you still have food or juices lingering in your stomach when you go to bed, it can leak up passively into your throat and not only prevent a good night’s sleep, but these same juices can also leak up into your nose, causing swelling and inflammation. In addition, many people will also stop breathing once in a while, which creates a vacuum effect in the throat which actively suctions up your stomach juices into your throat and nose.
4. Avoid drinking alcohol close to bedtime.
Not only does alcohol irritate the stomach, it also relaxes your throat muscles as you sleep, which aggravates the process described in the previous paragraph.
5. Remove Allergies in Your Room
If you have any known allergies, especially in your bedroom, try to either remove it or lessen your exposure to it. Learn how to remove allergies in your bedroom.
6. Get Regular Exercise Outdoors.
Personally, I would prefer a workout outside over the gym any day, plus oxygen content tends to be lower indoors, simply because of the buildup of CO2 and other gases which compete with oxygen.
So when you workout outdoors, not only are you exercising your heart and your muscles, you’re also exercising the nervous system in your nose. Vigorous physical activity activates your sympathetic nervous system, which constricts the blood vessels that supply your nasal turbinates. This allows you to breathe better through your nose, with all the added benefits described in my previous article.
Lastly, slow down and relax. Modern society has removed all the natural built-in breaks throughout the day. Along with all the information overload and constant stimulation, going nonstop all day only adds to the increased stress levels that everyone experiences. In between major activities, take a minute or so to stop what you’re doing and stretch, get up and move around, and do some deep-breathing exercises. Stress can tense up the muscles, causing you to breathe shallower, which causes physiologic changes that can ultimately aggravate nasal congestion.
These simple 7 steps won’t help everyone, but If you can go down the list and apply all the steps, many if not most of you should feel some improvement in your ability to breathe through your nose. If you’ve tried all these steps and still can’t breathe through your nose, then seek medical help. An otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat doctor) is the best doctor to take care of this condition.