So why should you keep your mouth closed when you breathe

goldfish3If your mouth is open you will be breathing through it.
Yet I have never met anyone who Wants to be a mouth breather. They have to sip water on and off all day as their mouths feels so dry. At night it’s hard to goldfish 4swallow saliva with the mouth open so they can get a damp patch on the pillow, and that awful ‘ my mouth feels like the bottom of a bird cage’ in the morning.
Mouth breathing will dry out the gums, and can cause bad breath. It will shorten the length of time someone can hold a mouth kiss.

And here is the inside story about why these symptoms happen. The nose and mouth have completely different types of cells lining them, each type designed for a specific  purpose.

strat_squam_drw3(source unknown from Google images – if you know where it came from please tell me so I can reference it)        The inside of the mouth is lined by a basal layer with layers and layers of thin ‘squashed’ [squamous] cells above it. This is very useful as there is a lot of abrasion on the mouth lining as you chew food, and so the basal region is protected from damage.
It is important to note that there are no secretory cells, so the only way to keep the lining of  the mouth moist is with saliva.
When you are dehydrated your mouth will feel dry as your salivary glands don’t have enough fluid to keep up the production of saliva. The same thing happens when you are stressed, as adrenaline makes all the glands of your body produce less secretions, so that all the bodies fluids are redirected to increase your blood volume to raise your blood pressure. It’s why people’s mouths go dry when they are afraid e.g. when they are about to give a speech  ( and a tip for this is to put a non sugar sweet between your back teeth and your cheek and just ignore it, and it will make saliva flow in spite of the fear. I used to do that in my early days of giving toastmasters speeches – and it really did make it easier to talk!)

Then when you relax they all start flowing again. It is one of the reasons why you digest food better when you are relaxed, as all the enzyme producing cells throughout your gut respond in the same way as your mouth’s saliva.

I.e.  the mouth is just NOT designed for frequent air flow!

(source)                                                 Your nose has only one layer of tall column shaped cells. These are puctuated by many other cells whose job is just to produce secretions. The secretions can trap dust and small particles that come in with the air, and have antibodies, enzymes and other chemicals that purify the air as it enters the body. Trapped particles are wafted back to the throat by the cilia that wave like a group of syncronised swimmers on top of the columnar cells so they are removed as we swallow.

There are many blood vessels below the basement membrane that warm the air as it passes by. The anatomy of the nose slows the air down and has structures [turbinates]that increase the surface area so air is warmed to body temperature and humidified in less than a second, making it ready to enter the delicate lungs in perfect condition.

Nitric oxide is released in tiny amounts into the air from the sinuses, and this helps clean the air and aids the passage of oxygen between our blood and the air in the lungs.

 i.e. the nose is PERFECTLY designed for frequent air flow!

It is worth seeing a respiratory physio if you are a mouth breather. There will always be a reason behind it, e.g.

  • you once had a nose injury or surgery and had to breathe through your mouth and it became a habit.
  • You have hayfever or allergies and have never learnt how to use a nasal rinse.
  • You do too much deep breathing or sigh a lot and it is quieter to do it through your mouth so others don’t comment on it.
  • You have a talkative personality or occupation and have developed a large upper chest breathing pattern
  • You have an occupation or living situation where the smells are unpleasant so you have taught yourself to be a mouth breather.
  • They have found that people with reflux can develop a mouth breathing pattern because of the irritation to the airways.
  • A poor posture, where the head is held too far forward can increase the tendency to mouth breath if the tendency to be an upper chest breather is also a factor.
  • I wonder if models who have to hold that seductive look of parted lips ever develop a poor breathing pattern?

It is very important that children are not mouth breathers, as their jaw and teeth will not develop properly – so take them to a doctor and ask for a referral to a respiratory physio to be assessed.