The nose or the mouth, what does it matter as long as you are breathing fine. Right? Wrong! Most of us don’t consider breathing through the mouth to be a major problem. But using your mouth instead of your nose to breathe can lower the oxygen concentration in your blood. This, in turn, may play a role in medical conditions like high blood pressure and heart problems. Mouth breathing while you sleep can result in disturbed sleep, leading to fatigue and lower productivity. And since the mode of breathing can impact the development of oral and facial structures, particularly during formative years, children may suffer from abnormalities. Over time mouth breathing may cause abnormal dental and facial development like narrow, long structure, crooked teeth, and gummy smiles.1
Mouth breathing usually starts as a response to some kind of nasal obstruction. Common culprits that can obstruct your nasal airways include allergic rhinitis, enlarged tonsils, enlarged adenoids, nasal polyps, and a deviated nasal septum. Clearing your nasal obstruction can thus solve the problem of mouth breathing in many cases. However, sometimes, people may continue to breathe through the mouth even after their nasal passages have been cleared because they’ve become accustomed to it. Therapeutic exercises can then be useful in helping shift to the nasal mode of breathing.2
Ways To Stop Mouth Breathing
Here are some things you can do to stop mouth breathing.
1. Deal With Structural Obstructions
Your doctor can help treat any structural issues that are obstructing nasal breathing. For instance, nasal polyps and swollen tonsils or adenoids can be surgically removed. Meanwhile, if the structure of your face or mouth is too narrow, expansion appliances can be used to increase the width of the sinuses and your nasal passages.3
2. Tackle Your Stuffy Nose
A common cold or allergies can block your nose and lead to mouth breathing. Here are some things you can do to clear your nasal passage.
Allergic rhinitis develops when you’re exposed to something like pollen, animal dander, or dust. One of simplest ways of dealing with this is by avoiding allergens. Try taking these measures:
- Pollen levels are higher on hot, windy, dry days. Stay indoors and keep your windows closed if possible during these times. Using an air conditioner can also be helpful.
- Dust can stick to carpets and fabric. It might be better to use leather, wooden, or vinyl furniture and avoid upholstered furniture and carpets. Also, use mite proof covers on pillows and bedding. It also makes sense to wash your pillows and bedding weekly in water that’s between 54.4°C to 60°C in temperature.
- Mold can grow on wallpaper, carpets, fabrics, books etc. when it’s damp. Try using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to get rid of mold present in the air. Also, use exhaust fans to lower moisture levels in areas like bathrooms that tend to be damp. 4 5
Get A Nasal Wash
A saline nasal wash can clear mucus and wash away irritants from your nasal passage.6
How to use: You can get a saline spray at the pharmacy or make your own. Simply mix half a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of baking soda into a cup of warm water and use this solution to wash out your nasal passages.
Turmeric, the exotic spice, can help you deal with allergies. It inhibits the release of histamine, a chemical that is released by our bodies during allergic reactions and causes symptoms like sneezing and a runny nose.7 Traditionally, Southeast Asian communities have also used turmeric to tackle nose clogging colds and coughs. Curcumin, a compound present in turmeric, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and is thought to be responsible for these beneficial properties.
How to use: Add a teaspoon of turmeric powder to a glass of milk and boil. Drink this healing remedy twice or thrice a day. 8
A cup of yogurt can help you deal with pollen allergies as well as prevent colds.9 Yogurt can also lessen the duration and severity of respiratory tract infections which cause a blocked nose. 10 Beneficial bacteria (probiotics) present in yogurt are considered to be responsible for these health-promoting properties.
How to use: Include a cup of yogurt in your daily diet.
Drink Benifuuki Green Tea
A variety of green tea from Japan known as Benifuuki has O-methylated catechin. This compound exhibits powerful anti-allergic effects and strongly inhibit the release of histamine. In one study, people who were allergic to pollen experienced relief from symptoms like stuffy nose and itchy eyes when they had Benifuuki green tea.11
How to use: Heat a cup of water to around 80 to 85°C but don’t let it boil. Now pour the hot water into a cup with a teaspoon of Benifuuki green tea and let it steep for around 3 minutes. Drink around 700 ml of green tea (about 2–3 cups) in a day. It can be helpful if you start having this tea around one and a half months before pollen season begins.
3. Try The Buteyko Breathing Method
The Buteyko Method, developed Dr Konstantin Buteyko, has breathing exercises which can be helpful in opening your nasal airways. It details breath-holding exercises to unblock your nose and reduced breathing exercises which help to set your breathing volume at a normal level. This way, you retrain your breathing so it’s optimal.12
Here’s an exercise to decongest your nose:
- Take in and let out a small breath through your nose.
- Now pinch your nose to restrict breath and walk as many paces as comfortably possible.
- Resume breathing through your nose, taking care to calm your breath and stop taking in excess air as soon as possible.
- Repeat the exercise 5 to 6 times, leaving about a minute in between each exercise cycle.
4. Go For Myofunctional Therapy
Myofunctional therapy aims at repatterning your facial and oral muscles. It includes tongue and facial exercises as well as techniques for behavior modification to encourage proper breathing, tongue positioning, chewing, positioning of the neck and head etc. This therapy can improve the functioning of the airway muscles and encourage nasal breathing during sleep. It also works as a supplementary therapy after removing nasal obstructions.13 14
5. Get Biofeedback
Biofeedback measures and gives you feedback on bodily functions with the aim of helping you exercise better control over them. In one study, treatment that provided mouth-breathing children with visual feedback on their breathing pattern was found to be helpful. The children were advised to adopt a quiet breathing pattern and were able to see lines on a computer screen that represented their breathing. By monitoring the lines, they corrected their breathing when necessary. At the end of around 15 sessions, they were able to significantly reduce sleeping with the mouth open and habits associated with it like drooling on the pillow, having restless sleep, and snoring. 15
6. Use Oral Devices
Oral devices like chin strips and vestibular shields can be helpful in preventing mouth breathing. Chin strips are pieces of tape that go under your chin and stop your mouth from falling open while you sleep. A vestibular shield is a device akin to a gum shield which is fitted into your mouth to block airflow, thereby encouraging you to breathe through your nose.16
|↑1, ↑3||Mouth Breathing Can Cause Major Health Problems. Academy of General Dentistry.|
|↑2||Triana, C. Barbara E. Garcia. “MOUTH BREATHING AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO SOME ORAL AND MEDICAL CONDITIONS.”|
|↑4, ↑6||Allergic rhinitis – self-care. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑5||Allergies, asthma, and dust. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑7||Kurup, Viswanath P., and Christy S. Barrios. “Immunomodulatory effects of curcumin in allergy.” Molecular nutrition & food research 52, no. 9 (2008): 1031-1039.|
|↑8||AHMED, TALHA, and ARSHAD TAIMOR. “HERBAL AND CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT OF BRONCHITIS.”|
|↑9||Cough. University of Maryland.|
|↑10||Vouloumanou, Evridiki K., Gregory C. Makris, Drosos E. Karageorgopoulos, and Matthew E. Falagas. “Probiotics for the prevention of respiratory tract infections: a systematic review.” International journal of antimicrobial agents 34, no. 3 (2009): 197-e1.|
|↑11||Maeda-Yamamoto, Mari, and Hirofumi Tachibana. “Anti-allergic action of 0-methylated EGCG in green tea cultivar benifuuki.” Journal of Food & Drug Analysis 20 (2012): 313-317.|
|↑12||Watchie, Joanne. Cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy: a clinical manual. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2009.|
|↑13||Guilleminault, C., and S. S. Sullivan. “Towards restoration of continuous nasal breathing as the ultimate treatment goal in pediatric obstructive sleep apnea.” Enliven: Pediatr Neonatol Biol 1, no. 1 (2014): 001.|
|↑14||Oral Myofacial Therapy—A Breakthrough Technique to Treat Symptoms Relating to Breathing Problems, TMJ, Headaches and Other Common Ailments. Academy of Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy.|
|↑15||Barbiero, E. de F., Luiz Carlos Marques Vanderlei, Patrícia Cesar Nascimento, M. M. Costa, and Augusto Scalabrini Neto. “Influence of respiratory biofeedback associated with a quiet breathing pattern on the pulmonary function and habits of functional mouth breathers.” Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy 11, no. 5 (2007): 347-353.|
|↑16||Snoring – Treatment. National Health Service.|