Breathing may be a regular activity that most people take for granted. However, many are unaware of the mechanisms of breathing as well as the consequences of improper breathing.

Mouth breathing, for instance, has been associated with adverse health consequences. It is also typically caused by an airway obstruction possibly due to mucosal accumulation from infections or allergic rhinitis.

Behavioural medicine practitioner Alan Ruth has stated the numerous benefits of nasal breathing that have been backed up by research.

Nose breathing traps large particles, facilitates the inhalation of nitric oxide (a vasodilator and bronchodilator) and retains some moisture from exhaled air. This prevents nasal dryness and facilitates correct action of the diaphragm, among many other benefits.

Mouth breathing may come with a range of negative effects

According to a study published in 2010, most healthcare professionals do not recognise the physical, medical and social problems associated with mouth breathing. Mouth breathing is shown to result in poor sleeping habits, and consequently can adversely affect growth and academic performance in children.

Yosh Jefferson, the author of the study, stated that many children who are affected by this are misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and hyperactivity.

Mouth breathing may impede proper skeletal growth

Mouth breathing can also interfere with the normal pattern of skeletal growth. This was explored by C. Grippaudo and several other researchers in Italy. A significant correlation was found between mouth breathing and malocclusion (misalignment of teeth).

The 2016 study found that mouth breathing was significantly associated with all occlusal problems that were examined in the study. The authors suggested an early intervention on the aetiological factors of mouth breathing to avoid malocclusions from developing or worsening.

Atopic dermatitis closely linked to mouth breathing

A study published in 2015 examined the association of mouth breathing with the prevalence of atopic dermatitis in children. Harutaka Yamaguchi and several other researchers found an association between mouth breathing and atopic dermatitis in Japanese preschool children aged between two and six years.

According to the results, atopic dermatitis was present in 22.3% of children who were complete mouth breathers, 12.7% of children who were partial mouth breathers and 7.0% who were complete nasal breathers.

Dental care may be necessary

In light of the study findings, it is worth mentioning the role of dentists in identifying early symptoms of mouth breathing, especially among children. A dentist may be able to recognise any symptoms related to mouth breathing and swollen tonsils, and patients can be referred to an ear-nose-throat (ENT) specialist when needed.

Ultimately, early intervention is crucial as the shift from typical nose breathing to mouth breathing can impact the different biological functions within an individual.

This ranges from the most local, such as muscular exertion, craniofacial growth and functioning, chemosensory awareness, eating and lower airway development, to the more general functions. Such functions include sleep quality, temperamental traits, stress reactivity and quality of life. MIMS

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