Mouth Breathing and How it Affects Your Health

Mouth Breathing

It is perfectly natural to breathe through your mouth at certain times, such as when lifting a heavy load or exercising. Breathing through the mouth most of the time, however, can cause health problems. These problems can be especially severe for children because it can affect the long-term development of the face.

Most of us bring air into our body through our nose. The nose is designed to act as a natural humidifier and filtering system for the air we breathe. When we can’t get enough air through our nose, however, the mouth takes over. Breathing through the mouth most of the time was not nature’s intent. When this happens, problems can occur.

Why Would Someone Mouth Breathe?

Mouth breathing is a postural habit that can develop for numerous reasons. Below are the most common:

  1. Allergies
  2. Thumb or finger sucking habit
  3. Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
  4. Chronic nasal congestion
  5. Respiratory infection

Each of these five factors make it physically impossible for a person to nasal breathe. If nasal breathing is not possible, the body’s only choice is to mouth breathe.

Mouth breathing changes the way the tongue works—it develops a “tongue thrust.” A tongue thrust affects speech, swallowing, breathing, and chewing in problematic ways.

Facial Growth and Development

Mouth Breathing and How it Affects Your HealthBelieve it or not, breathing through your mouth can actually change the shape of your face and alter your appearance. This is especially true for children because they are still growing. Children whose mouth breathing goes untreated may suffer from abnormal facial and dental development. Symptoms include long, narrow faces and mouths, less defined cheek bones, small lower jaws, and “weak” chins. Other facial symptoms include gummy smiles and crooked teeth. A “mouth breather” facial expression is typically not viewed as an attractive or desirable appearance to have.

Other Effects on the Body

Using the mouth for breathing disrupts our natural body mechanics. It can affect a number of bodily functions and lead to symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Gingivitis and gum disease
  • Sore throat and cold symptoms
  • Bad breath and higher risk for cavities
  • Poor sleep—leading to chronic fatigue
  • Digestive disturbances—gas, upset stomach, acid reflux, etc.

The stem of the problem in many cases is oxygen deprivation. When we take in air through the mouth, less oxygen is able to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Poor sleeping habits often result from lower oxygen levels. In children, this can adversely affect growth and academic performance. It has even been connected to ADD and ADHD symptoms.

In adults, poor oxygen concentration in the bloodstream has been associated with high blood pressure, heart problems, sleep apnea and other medical issues.

Mouth breathing causes posture changes as well. In order to open the airway, the head rests in a forward position and the shoulders slump. This in unhealthy for the spine.

Mouth breathing can also affect the position of your teeth and your bite. The resting posture of the lips and position of the tongue have also been shown to cause problems with the orthodontic treatment—time spent in braces can be longer, and the chance for relapse after the braces are removed is higher.

What Can Be Done to Treat Mouth Breathing

Mouth breathing may seem like an easy habit to change. Just close your mouth, right?

Unfortunately, for the people who struggle with mouth breathing, it is not that easy. This is because all of the muscles of the face and mouth have been programmed to help them breathe in a dysfunctional manner. Their body does not know how to breathe normally.

In order to stop mouth breathing, the muscles must be “re-trained” to function in new ways.

A myofunctional therapist such as myself can be an instrumental figure in helping you learn to breathe in a healthy way. Myofunctional therapists are skilled at helping children and adults gain control over muscle patterning habits, including those involved in mouth breathing.

A consultation with a myofunctional therapist can be very valuable. If the muscles are not re-trained, problems with general health, speech, orthodontic treatment, dental health, swallowing and breathing may persist throughout life. Myofunctional therapy is needed to make the muscular changes associated with mouth breathing.

mouthbreathing-skypeI offer free 30 minute Skype consultations to people who want to find out more about how I can help them or their children. Please feel free to get in touch using my contact form here.


38 Responses to “Mouth Breathing and How it Affects Your Health”

  1. Cami April 14, 2013 6:54 pm #

    I am a 50+, female, (mostly) former mouth-breather myself, who was a blue-baby (meconium aspiration), fingersucker, tongue-thruster with allergies, severe asthma, etc. I have the classic face with the recessed chin. I had to have 8 teeth removed from my mouth before getting braces because my mouth was so overcrowded from not growing correctly. I had sinus surgery to open up my severely compromised sinus system (I had only 20% of the normal sinus space and that was filled with yeast) almost 10 years ago. It was very painful but also very successful. To anyone considering that surgery, I would warn you that recovery is tough but I would so it all again for the outcome of being able to breathe with my mouth closed! My issue is retraining: after so many years of mouth-breathing it is difficult to retrain myself, especially when breathing heavily (as when climbing a hill), and while sleeping. I just wonder what my face would have looked like if it had developed correctly, and whether or not I would have had less physical ailments over the years if this had been corrected early. No sense wasting the time, I know, but I still wonder…

    • Sarah April 17, 2013 6:48 pm #

      Thank you very much for your comment and for sharing about your history. You sound very similar to many of my patients. You are correct, it takes a lot of practice to retrain your breathing, and tongue position can play a large role in making it an easier process. This is where myofunctional therapy would be helpful for someone like you. Retraining your breathing, tongue posture, swallowing pattern, and general posture would have been ideal for your recovery 10 years ago. My hope is that someday myofunctional therapy can be done in conjunction with many types of nasal/airway surgeries. I am glad you are able to breath better now :-) All my best to you! Sarah

  2. james April 26, 2013 1:52 pm #

    I was unable to breathe throgh my nose throughout childhood and had an operation at 11 to correct this (not sure what it was). However u was given no training on how to actually breathe through my nose and have never done so since – I am now aged 22. My teeth are over crowed and my jaw has not formed properly being narrow at the bottom and too far back, too narrow at the top and teeth do not meet when I bite together. I suffer from sore throats, ulcers and stomach upsets alot. What are he first steps of getting to see a therapist as I woukd really like to try and breathe through my nose.

  3. Eleanor May 31, 2013 5:00 pm #

    This is all very interesting for me to read. I am 25 and have breathed through my mouth my whole life; I don’t know why, although I did used to suck my thumb a lot as a child. My lower jaw is further back from my top, giving me the (apparently classic) overbite which I have always been very insecure about. As a teenager my orthodontist suggested an operation to move my lower jaw forward, but I felt that this would make me look very square jawed and unnatural. I have recently tried to correct my mouth breathing and ensure I breath only through my nose but I often feel as though I am not getting enough breath and after a few hours my jaw starts to ache. What can you suggest as I am starting to feel a bit hopeless! : (

  4. Mark October 6, 2013 8:25 am #

    I have long face syndrome and I been a mouth breather all my life and now I’m 17. And for a month I started to breath through my nose. Will breathing through my nose now, make my face smaller? Or atleast make it normal a little bit? PLEASE ANSWER.

  5. Leah October 16, 2013 1:35 am #

    I breathe through my mouth all the time. I don’t find it difficult to breathe through my nose, I just find that I get more oxygen when breathing on through the mouth. I have never had any allergies or dental problems?

  6. Norma January 31, 2014 2:18 pm #

    My husband is always telling me “do you realize how heavy you are breathinh” I never notice this. I have a habit of breathing through my mouth as I feel like I get more oxygen into my lungs by mouth breathing. I do have asthma attacks maybe every 6 months. I know when I lend down to pick up something that drop off bed that I have to breath hard thru my mouth to get enough air into my lungs to breath. I

  7. Lauren February 4, 2014 4:20 pm #

    I have always wondered why my face shape is so different now than when I was a child. I have a receding jaw, overcrowded teeth, super long slim face (was short and wide as a young child), have a different shaped nose, receding small top lip, forward slanting neck position, sunken cheeks and crowded teeth . I also have super chronic gas and reflux which I developed at around 14/15 (for seemingly no reason) I also started snoring and ceasing breathing during sleep during puberty. All for apparently no reason apart from ‘reaching puberty’ or ‘getting older.’ I was a very cute child with perfect facial feature, people always told my parent to watch out because I was going to be an absolute stunner and would probably become a model later in life. The from around 13 year onwards everything switched. I was teased mercilessly for my looks and not only did my physical features transform, but my health just started going down hill for no apparent reason. I used to beg my parents as a teenager to tell me why I changed so much and begged them to pay for all sorts of plastic surgery because it was their fault. How come the negative cosmetic, physical health and even mental health problems that can never be reversed from constantly mouth breathing are not something that are made warnings to parents? Why were many doctors aware that I always mouth-breathed basically from infancy, but never told my parents that it would affect me in any way? It took me several years of research and searching to discover what had caused so many changes in me and my parents had never even known that it was a problem to breath through your mouth! It really upsets me that a lot of my problems could have been prevented, but now it’s too late unless I undergo serious, painful and expensive surgery

    • zixuan September 14, 2014 2:44 pm #

      i was also bothered by huge change on my look since i was like 13. i was once a cute kid when i was below 12,everybody said that to me. Now that i just look exactly the “chronic mouth-breather profile”, i am shocked when i found out this picture, as it matches my humpback problems. All these things now finally have an answer that it’s due to the fact that i used to be a chronic mouth-breather….sigh

  8. Jennifer March 16, 2014 11:30 am #

    I was surprised not to see deviated septum listed as a common cause of mouth-breathing. People can be born with a deviated septum, or it can develop following a nasal fracture or after surgery, including rhinoplasty (cosmetic surgery for the nose). The Indian practice of Ayurvedic medicine has emphasized the importance of breathing through the nose for thousands of years, and I believe it’s part of the traditional yogic practice. It’s interesting to see ourselves returning to the teachings of an earlier times, and to consider what wisdom ancient people may have known that is now lost, and must be rediscovered.

  9. Dennis April 5, 2014 10:04 am #

    Hi, thanks for this update, i have a 5 yr old chronic mouth breather who has developed the typical face of a mouther breath, he has dental cavities and has had 2 teeth removed already. He also ha GIT problems of gas and abdominal pain. My ENT surgeon plans to have him operated for enlarged adenoids. What is the likelihood that his current complications will correct?

    I will appreciate your response because i need to make this decision for surgery.

    • Reshma June 27, 2014 1:32 am #

      Hi Dennis,

      I think adenoids can shrink as you grow. Our son had large adenoids when he was small (he is now 14). Warm milk with turmeric, black pepper, cardmon powder (mostly for flavour) helped him as well. He didn’t require any surgery. You can google more on this. Hope this helps!

  10. marko April 17, 2014 3:21 pm #

    I am 17 years old and I am mouth breather.But I started too breath through my nose.Will my face change to the better if I continue to breathe through the nose?

    • G August 14, 2014 4:44 pm #

      Sorry, but probably not. You’ve stopped growing by now. It would be hard to change back. It’s the reason why people try to get braces while they’re still kids—once you’re an adult, your bone structure really doesn’t change much.

    • jurre May 7, 2015 9:48 pm #

      Actually, a lot of people experience improvement in their facial structure when they change to holding their tongue on the roof of their mouth and eating a tough diet that exercises the facial muscles, it does take two or three years to notice a significant difference once you’re fully grown though. Look up the orthothropics channel on youtube. At the very least changing your breathing and tongue posture will stop your facial features from worsening as you get older, for example if you hold your tongue on the bottom of your mouth you may find your jaw widening as you age. it’s the same as never working out other parts of your body, it may be easier to get in shape when you’re young, but it’s not impossible as adult, it just takes more dedication.

  11. Barbara April 28, 2014 8:27 am #

    I really appreciate this article but can you provide some scientific citations? I am studying this in yoga teacher training class but don’t want to provide unsubstantiated data to my colleagues.

    • Sarah April 29, 2014 2:05 pm #

      Hi Barbara,
      Thank you for your comment. I would be happy to provide some research articles for you!

      First look up a study published by Yosh Jefferson in the Journal of General Dentistry in 2009. It is titled Mouth breathing:Adverse effects on facial growth, health, academics, and behavior. Here is a link:

      Also check out a study published in the European Journal of Orthodontics in 2007. Here is the link to a PDF:

      Start with those 2 and if you need any more just let me know!
      Thanks for taking the time to visit my website and read my information.


  12. Amparo David May 3, 2014 9:05 pm #


    I am so glad you are out there doing this types of therapies.
    When we do orthopedic development of the jaw,(note) not orthodontic,
    the nasal airway improves, facial features improve, chronic pains improve.
    Many times one cannot do just orthopedic development of the jaws, if the patient is a mouth breather, they will fight the movements we make with our appliances.
    That is exactly why so many people that has had braces, have crooked teeth again in adulthood. Because the change to nasal breathing and the training of the muscles (myofunctional therapy) did not happen.

    We have crooked teeth because there is an underlying breathing disorder.
    So those of us who are involved in the orthopedic/ airway dental world need more of you to help things happen. The combination of therapies is what makes big improvements.
    TMD, chronic pain,sleep disorders and headaches are all interconnected

    After all is all about breathing!!!!

  13. Dom May 14, 2014 9:18 pm #

    It all makes sense to me now… FML!

  14. Shawn July 23, 2014 5:00 am #

    I’m 28 now and my face didn’t really develop the way I wanted it to. My voice trails off and isn’t very loud and I find myself having to repeat things to people because they can’t hear me. I can breathe through my nose but I don’t really want to go through surgery to fix it is there another way around it? I try to practice when I can to breathe through my nose if I try to do it more regularly in my calm periods of time throughout my day will it start to approve?

  15. hamza July 29, 2014 7:12 am #

    Ive had a lot of health problems that I didnt understand as a young teen, i always felt tired couldnt do well in school, i found it very hard to focus, socialising problems, id always be suffocating myself to keep my mouth closed in public places because it just looked so bad having my mouth open infront of people, over bite i cant keep my mouth closed naturally and recently receding gums

  16. hamza July 29, 2014 7:16 am #

    I forgot to add that I havent been able to breath through my nose recently found out that I have a deviated septum and swollen turbinates, my parents didnt really support me i had to find answers to my health issues myself. Im 23 now and this issue has really affected my life i wish people were aware especially doctors all they seem to know is what books tell them they dont care about anything else.

  17. Ashley July 30, 2014 7:47 pm #

    I am 22 now and just decided to research all this. I have really bad environmental allergies and chronic nasal congestion which had caused me to mouth breathe since I was little. Now my posture is extremely bad and I have feelings of fatigue all the time. I also wish someone would have told me about mouth breathing as a child. :( I am going to school for speech pathology and the last thing I need is to be mouth breathing in front of clients. HELP!

  18. stephenie August 22, 2014 10:47 pm #

    I am a mouthbreather since i was little, not sure of the cause, but im fatigued,i always talk nasally, my face is long, high smile line, bad bite, always sick, hate the appearance of my face, poor concentration, & most of all im worried about my children esp 1 who looks similar to me he is 5, im taking him to the pediatric dentist on Monday. i would really like to take action to treat my condition would love your professional opinion on where to start. i have 3 young children under 5 & havent made time to help myself. I am actually a dental hygienist myself but only work casually.
    thankyou your help would be appreciated
    God bless

  19. Robert November 2, 2014 7:28 am #

    I have had this problem since I was baby, I’m 44 years old now, when I was young I would be upset minded with my mouth open, I was bullied at school I never performed well in school because of this, when I turned adult this behaviour continued I have slow speech and feels tired all the time, when I close my mouth I seems to be like smiling and people think I’m smiling at them that makes me open my mouth again when in public, I feel uncomfortable with my mouth open I glad to find people with this condition and for sharing their experience I hope I get over it because I did not know it is a medical condition, I thought it was just a bad habit, thanks for the help and advice.

  20. kristy January 11, 2015 2:19 pm #

    Hi hoping you can help, I am definitely a mouth breather and cannot breath at all through my right nostril (maybe about 10%) it seams to be too small to breath through. I’ve been experiencing pain in my palate for a while now. Which is getting worse and more regular. I have two lumps (checked out by many and guaranteed by all that they aren’t cancer) I am wondering if this could be caused by overcrowding. I was told 10 years ago I needed 4 teeth out b4 braces (never happened) and now at 24yrs I have all 4 wisdom teeth too.. so not a lot of room. My third main top tooth is pushed back quite far and the pain is mostly located behind it. A dentist and a doctor thought the lump could be the bone? Do you think it could? The doc was reluctant to do a ct scan to confirm.. so now I am too. My tongue tingles right under the larger bump behind the main problem tooth. And I seam to be biting my tongue which causes pain. Talking has become problematic. Can’t rest tongue. As it rests against my teeth and palate which hurts. Do you have any idea whats going on. Oh I also have a tonsil on the right side that’s about 2~3 x larger. I now brush my teeth 2 to 3 sonetimes 4 times a day as it helps. Eating help. Milk helps. I have post nasal drip heartburn and fatigue. Any advice would be great. Doc has said to make am apointment if things get worse. No follow up. Should I see a dentist. Do I need braces now? (Not want)

  21. Shelby February 16, 2015 7:43 am #

    OMG, I can’t believe I’ve never connected my “chronic pack, neck, and jaw pain” to mouth breathing!!! I don’t think I was a mouth breather as a child, but I sucked my thumb until I was about 12 years old, at which time I was put in braces by my orthodontist. I wore braces for about 3 years. When I would talk to my mom about plastic surgery (I wanted to get my bridge bump fixed, just because I hated how it looked in profile view), she would always say, “You don’t need that, you need a chin implant because you have a weak chin.” That comment always bothered me and so I began push my chin forward so I didn’t have this ugly weak chin (which I still don’t see…..I see the nose bump). Eventually it changed the position of my tongue and how my jaw closed. I’m a very self conscious person, have been told by a friend that she hates listening to me eat (even though I eat with my mouth closed) she always says I make too much noise when eating, like I guess she hears my tongue smacking/clicking inside. It really hurt my feelings because I really try to be considerate of others. After years of altering my normal patterns, I began having back pain, then neck pain, and jaw pain…..I even noticed that it has affected my vision!!! I wish I could afford to see a Myofunctional therapist to help me get my life back because it has affected my life SO horribly that I haven’t been able to work in about 7 years because of the “chronic pain” and severe fatigue from being a mouth breather! What I’ve learned from this article is not to force yourself to chnage your face to please others because I also just realized that I hated having a round, plump looking face and that I wanted it to look slimmer, which caused me to try to change how my face looked, but I just want to get my health back!!! I feel like this would be worth SO MUCH to me……like I could actually be happy and a productive citizen of the world again! I hope I can try to re-train myself so I can get my life back, but I know that sleeping is the hardest time to keep up those re-trained facial muscles. I swear, I just want to cry because I feel like I have finally found the answer to ALL my physical ailments!!! Thank you SO MUCH for this wonderful and informative article! :)

  22. Eric February 26, 2015 8:38 am #

    I had been mouth breathing for some time now, not knowing there was anything wrong with it. I never noticed everyone else breathing through their noses during rest. Id wake up multiple times a night to drink water and would still wake up with a terrible taste in my mouth. I’m still re-training myself but my condition has gotten much better.

  23. Joseph Chance Watkins March 30, 2015 11:26 am #

    Thanks so much for the article Sarah, it was very informative. Lol I guess I look like the chronic mouth breather picture most of the time; anyways, thanks for the article; Jesus Christ Bless you! :)

  24. ES April 2, 2015 9:09 am #

    I am an opera singer, so I was trained to breathe through my mouth as well, as you get more oxygen through the mouth. Singers usually breathe through their mouth so they can get the extra breathe needed. I’ve never suffered from allergies and never get sick. I feel that my body get a lot more oxygen if I also breathe through my mouth. Two music teachers have lived many years into their old age as healthy. Singing is very healthy and they always taught to breathe through their mouths. I think mouth breathing is bad if as a child, but as an adult I have not had any problems in many years of breathing through my mouth. I know that taking in a lot of air actually gets more air into your organs which is wonderful. All singers who take their practice seriously, are very healthy. Thanks for the post, good info.

  25. loraine May 10, 2015 1:34 pm #

    I’ve been breathing trough my mouth since a kind. Today, i jus realized i’m a mouth breather. I want to go to a doctor, but I don’t know if im too late. I only see things about children on the internet. I will turn 17 this month.. so am I too late for learning how to breath trough my nose? I hope somebody could help me

    • Sarah May 22, 2015 7:24 pm #

      It’s never too late. I get great results with adult patients including middle aged and older :)

  26. Rae May 31, 2015 8:54 pm #

    when looking up info for another orthodontic issue (crowding/wisdom teeth) I came across info about breathing through the mouth. I don’t know if I did this as a kid but around the time I got braces, (14 ish). I am 22 now, so I am not sure what kind of facial and bone development changes might have occurred or how I should go about fixing them. I am trying to simply breathe with a closed mouth but it feels “weird”. :/

    • Rae May 31, 2015 8:59 pm #

      Edit: hit send before I was finished, oops! I also definitely relate to the person above who said they started breathing with their mouth slightly open because they had a “round plump face”. Same boat, and another reason I remember my manner of breathing changed around 12 or 14 years ago.

  27. Anonymous July 16, 2015 1:26 am #

    Thanks for this very helpful and enlightening post! This made me realize the reason why I look different (like the one in the picture above) from my peers. Now, I’m 17 years old. I know it might be too late but my question is, is there still a chance that my facial bone structure would be corrected after training myself to breathe through my nose again? 2 months after doing this I noticed that there are improvements on my face such as my eyes are not as droopy as before, however I really want to know if there ia still hope for me to improve my other facial characteristic such as having weak chin, etc.


  1. Anyone else a mouth breather? - Oral Care - City-Data Forum - February 8, 2013

    […] Anyone else a mouth breather? I am, and I guess it's totally messed up my face and caused a bunch of other mood issues and stuff. Just going to post these to get the word out there, this is unfortunately science that has only cropped up recently so I wasn't lucky enough to catch it before puberty. Maybe our next generation will: Mouth Breathing and How it Affects Your Health | Faceology Center for Orofacial Myology […]

  2. Unhealthy Breathing: Problems & Techniques - Return2Health - March 18, 2014

    […] […]

  3. The Respiratory System | Kino Hilario The Student - July 29, 2014

    […] So I was just looking around the internet, goofing around, having fun, until I had a sudden interest in how people sing, what part of the body do we use to sing, how does the vocals move. I didn’t find much interesting things about the vocals etc… But I found something about the respiratory system, and that’s when it hit me, I had Science homework! Which was about the respiratory homework! I actually learned a lot from this site, it was quite interesting: […]

Leave a Reply