Why You Should Breathe Through Your Nose, Not Your Mouth

breathing If you have allergies or sinus issues, you may already be familiar with the Ayurvedic practice of sinus rinsing (aka irrigating your nasal cavity). But did you know it can impact your oral health, too?

Naturally, when you’re stuffed up, you’ll breathe more through your mouth than your nose. Yet we were designed for nasal breathing. Your nose filters and warms the air you take in. You breathe more slowly. Your lungs have more time to extract the oxygen you need. Circulation improves. Lung volume increases.

Not so with mouth breathing.

Mouth breathing also contributes to dry mouth – which in turn can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and other dental problems. When mouth breathing begins in childhood, it can even lead to changes in facial appearance.

Children whose mouth breathing is untreated may develop long, narrow faces, narrow mouths, high palatal vaults, dental malocclusion, gummy smiles, and many other unattractive facial features, such as skeletal Class II or Class III facial profiles. These children do not sleep well at night due to obstructed airways; this lack of sleep can adversely affect their growth and academic performance.

Of course, there are many causes of mouth breathing, but if congestion is the culprit, sinus rinsing may offer some relief.

The rinse removes mucus and debris from the nasal passages by flushing a solution through the sinuses. Typically this solution consists of filtered or distilled water and a small amount of non-iodized salt. A pinch of baking soda can also be added to help prevent irritation.

Others suggest adding pure essential oils or other medicaments to the basic solution – for instance, rosemary and tea tree oil, or plantain, marshmallow root, and bee balm. (The article at the latter link includes some helpful tips on choosing herbs for your particular needs.)

While a Neti pot is the traditional tool for doing a sinus rinse, a sinus squeeze bottle can also be effective. The difference between them?

While the Neti pot works on the principle of gravity, the squeeze bottles work on low positive pressure. Because you control the amount and volume of water entering the nostril, some find this method more effective in removing congestion. Another distinction is that the position of the head is more vertical when using a squeeze bottle.

That said, sinus rinsing helps most with mild to moderate nasal symptoms. If your sinus issues are chronic, it’s important to find out why they’re occurring and to treat the root cause, not just go for the temporary fix.

Nasal rinsing can be a simple and effective way to keep you breathing in the best possible way – through your nose. If you have any concerns about whether sinus rinsing would be appropriate for you, be sure to talk about them with your healthcare provider.

Image by galaxies and hurricanes, via Flickr