Mouth Breathing

Under normal circumstances people breathe through nose rather than through mouth. Mouth breathing can therefore be seen as a certain inconvenience that can be caused by some pathological conditions. Mouth breathing is disadvantageous because of certain reasons. During “normal” nasal breathing, air is more properly cleansed and warmed up than by mouth breathing. By mouth breathing bad breath is more often evident. Mouth breathing at night during sleep may also be part of so-called sleep apnea syndrome.


Nasal obstacles

If there is an obstacle to air flow inside nasal cavity, affected person is forced o breathe through mouth. Such obstacles may be, for example, nasal polyps, deviated nasal septum and in very rare cases, even local cancers.

Swollen nasal mucosa

Swollen mucosa typically occurs during inflammation. Mucosa enlarges and produces mucus leading to nasal congestion. The patient must blow his or her nose or begin to breathe through mouth. The most common diseases include classical infectious rhinitis and allergic rhinitis. Infectious rhinitis can be complicated by bacterial sinusitis.

Enlarged adenoid

This unpaired tonsil is located in nasopharynx and its enlargement in children is often causing snoring, mouth breathing and hyponasal speech.

Sleep apnea syndrome

In this case mouth breathing occurs during sleep together with snoring. It is associated with obesity, sleeping on your back and drinking alcohol before going to sleep. The point is that soft palate of sleeping person “sticks” to hard palate and so it closes the airway. Affected person breathes through mouth and sometimes even stops breathing for a short time. Long untreated sleep apnea leads to elevated blood pressure and other serious complications.

Diagnostic approach

Patient having problem with continuous mouth breathing should be examined by an otolaryngologist who can view upper airways using mirrors and other tools to evaluate presence of possible obstacles or other causes of obstruction. A head X-ray can show us changes typical for sinusitis.

Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources