How to Know if You're a Mouth Breather

How to Know if You're a Mouth Breather
Posted on 07/27/2021
Mouth Breather

mkdentistry_blog_07272021We’ve all heard the insult “mouth breather” before.

It’s most often used to knock someone down a peg, but what most don’t know is that anyone can be a “mouth breather” if there is an obstruction to the nasal airway.

If untreated, breathing through the oral cavity can cause a myriad of other health issues so there’s a reason why it has such a bad rap. Who knew that something as simple as breathing could affect our health in such a dramatic way?

Abnormal breathing is the technical term for breathing through the mouth, and it is typically quicker and more shallow than--you guessed it--normal breathing.

You can tell if someone is breathing abnormally if their chest is rising and falling instead of their abdomen and it’s normally seen when a person is under stress. However, if one breathes through their mouth habitually it can have serious side effects over the course of their life.

Habitual mouth breathing involves a person breathing in and out of the mouth for sustained periods of time at regular intervals during rest or sleep. It is common for mouth breathing adults to experience sleep disordered breathing, fatigue, decreased productivity and a poorer quality of life than those who default to nasal breathing.

Additionally, mouth breathing is something to be on the lookout for amongst children as well. Left untreated, it can affect the way their orofacial structures and airways are formed, which can lead to snoring and obstructive sleep apnea later in life.

Interestingly enough, lack of sleep due to the obstruction of the air way typically manifests as hyperactivity among children. According to the National Sleep Foundation children may appear to be moody, emotionally explosive, or aggressive as a result of poor quality sleep. Whereas, among adults, a lack of sleep results in sluggishness and low productivity.

This is why children often get misdiagnosed with ADD or ADHD when in reality they simply may not be getting enough sleep due to an inability to breathe properly. 

So, what causes abnormal (mouth) breathing you might ask?

  • Allergic rhinitis (a technical term for the inflammation of the inside of the nose caused by allergens like pollen, pet dander, etc.)
  • Enlarged adenoids
  • Enlarged tonsils
  • Obstructive deviation of the nasal septum

Allergic Rhinitis is known to be one of the leading causes of abnormal breathing, and it is important to remember that as soon as congestion occurs in the nasal passage, the body notices the lack of airflow, which causes an individual to switch to mouth breathing automatically.

As harmless as it may seem, this said individual becomes accustomed to breathing through their mouth and will likely continue to do so even after their congestion has subsided, causing a vicious cycle of recurring nasal inflammation that continues to reinforce abnormal breathing.

Which means that breathing through the nose is a vital part of its decongestion.

Ironic, isn’t it?

moth breather photo

You may be a “mouth breather” if you experience any of the following:

  • Sleeping with your mouth open
  • Snoring
  • Itchy nose
  • Drooling while sleeping, or noticing drool on your pillow upon waking
  • Nocturnal sleep problems or agitated sleep
  • Nasal obstruction
  • Irritability during the day

Furthermore, mouth breathing causes the tongue to rest at the bottom of the mouth in order to create more space for air to flow through, and as a result can lead to abnormal tongue activity. This abnormal tongue activity can lead to periodontal disease, atypical myofascial pain, and increased tooth mobility.

Additionally, those who habitually breathe through their mouth may struggle to maintain good posture. This is because mouth breathers overcompensate for the restriction of their airways by carrying their heads forward while breathing.

This forward head posture often leads to muscle fatigue, neck pain, tension in the temporomandibular joint area, spinal disc compression, early arthritis, tension headaches, and dental occlusal problems.


All that to say, it is crucial for medical and dental professionals to assess mouth breathing in children and adult patients to prevent these health issues from occurring. If this resembles your experience in any way we would love to schedule a consultation with you to further discuss your symptoms and develop a treatment plan that works best for you.