Just Breathe – The importance of breathing through your nose

Just Breathe – The importance of breathing through your nose

Breathing. It is what keeps us alive. You do not have to think to breathe or remember to take that next breath. It is the single most important act your body does subconsciously. Just breath they say.

But have you ever considered the actual act of breathing? Close your eyes and picture the tiny oxygen particles entering your body, traveling to your lungs where it is taken up into your bloodstream and taken to every far-reaching corner of your body. There it is being exchanged for carbon dioxide which travels all the way back to your lungs before being expelled on the out-breath. Simple, right?

But did you know that how we breathe can make a big difference in our bodies and our lives? Experts have long believed in the importance of breathing through the nose vs the mouth and much research has been done on the overall effect on your body. More and more studies are being conducted and the information on this topic is now so overwhelming that the World Dental Federation (FDI) declared in 2018 in a policy statement the importance of the dentist’s role in preventing and treating Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders (SRBD), early detection in children and prevention of late-onset forms. This can include immediate management as well.

The nose is built with a specific purpose, and that is to support our respiratory system. The primary purpose of the mouth, on the other hand, is to start the digestive process. The nostrils, hair, and nasal passages are designed to assist in filtering allergens and foreign bodies from entering the lungs. The nose also adds moisture and warmth to inhaled air for smoother entry to the lungs.

Nasal breathing, as opposed to mouth breathing, has another important advantage, especially for effective exercise, it can allow for more oxygen to active tissues. That is because breathing through the nose releases nitric oxide, which is necessary to increase carbon dioxide (CO2) in the blood, which, in turn, is what releases oxygen. Mouth breathing does not effectively release nitric oxide, which means the cells are not getting as much oxygen as through nasal breathing, which could lead to fatigue and stress.

In dentistry we already know that mouth breathing due to upper airway obstruction can result in enlarged tonsils and adenoids, bruxism causing wear and fracture of teeth, tempero-mandibular disorder of the jaw joints, fascial pain, erosion of the teeth, malocclusion, periodontal disease, caries, and impacted teeth. Apart from the dental implications, upper airway obstructions can lead to sleep disturbed breathing which causes headaches, snoring, difficulty sleeping, neck, jaw, or ear pain. Chronic diseases such as obesity, ADHD, asthma, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and sleep apnea can also develop from sleep disturbed breathing. Conditions that can all affect the quality of life and life expectancy.

In kids, mouth breathers are associated with the “Long-faced Syndrome” which describes a long face appearance, dropped eyes, dark spots under eyes, open lips, narrow nostrils, weak cheek muscles, high palate, narrowing of the upper jaw, and malocclusion. Mouth breathing patients usually report symptoms such as, dry lips and mouth, snoring and open mouth while sleeping, chronic sinus and ear infections and colds, chronic bad breath, and swollen and red gums that bleed easily. Malocclusions that can be seen associated with airway dysfunction and accompanying poor facial development are open bites, crossbites, impacted teeth, and tooth crowding. Mouth breathers and patients with tongue and lip ties also show signs of altered posture of the tongue, speech deficits, and a swallowing abnormality.

Dr. Engelbrecht has become passionate about educating her patients about the importance of breathing through their noses. If children sleep with their mouth open, or their mouth hangs open while doing daily tasks such as watching TV, this is a sure sign that he or she is breathing through their mouths. Address it the moment you notice this habit. We are surrounded by excellent specialists in the field such as our local GP’S, ENT’s, and other allergy specialists. Ensure that there is no underlying issue causing your child to breathe through his or her mouth.

The next step would be to have a look at their facial development. Most kids with severe mouth breathing habits have underdeveloped jaws which in turn will lead to severe crowding of their teeth. This can also be addressed at a young age and we treat patients from when their first permanent teeth start erupting to help their faces grow and develop. We do this using the MYOBRACE together with Myofunctional therapy to get the facial muscles to work better together.

The changes we see in our patients are quite extraordinary. Most kids sleep better and wake up more energised. With the added correct growth of their faces, the floor of the nose becomes broader making breathing through their noses easier. They also get more space for better dental alignment and with the foundation growing better, their teeth start to become straighter.

It is such a simple approach but needs serious commitment from both our patients and their parents.

If you have noticed that your child is breathing through the mouth, see them with their mouths hanging open, and notice that their teeth are not coming out as straight as you would like, let us assess them sooner rather than later to see if we can help.

Just breathe, they say.