Nose vs mouth breathing blog post header image

Are You a Nose Breather or a Mouth Breather?

From the moment we are born, we all have the need to breathe air into our lungs.

Breathing is controlled by our autonomic nervous system which means that, for the most part, your breathing is automatic and you don’t have to think about doing it.

However, over time we become one of two types of breathers: A Mouth Breather or a Nose Breather. It is usually easy to tell which one you are, but if you need a bit more help we will go over some of the most common signs and symptoms below.

Nose Breather

A Nose Breather is the golden child. They inhale and exhale primarily through their nostrils both day and night. They have no problems accessing their nasal airway and are generally in good health.

Nose Breather 1

Benefits of Nose Breathing:

  • Air is warmed and humidified to prevent dryness
  • Natural filtration captures particles and allergens to decrease illness
  • Production of Nitric Oxide decreases blood pressure and acts as an antifungal/antibacterial agent
  • Airflow is slowed which encourages low belly breathing (diaphragmatic breath)
  • High Tongue and closed lips allow for proper development of facial structure
  • Chances for Snoring and Apnea episodes are decreased significantly

Mouth Breather

A Mouth Breather needs some help. They usually suffer from some sort of nasal trauma or defect, and/or are prone to allergies and inflammation which blocks their nasal passages.

Mouth Breather

Risks of Mouth Breathing:

  • Mouth dryness leads to tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath
  • Inhalation of allergens, pollutants etc leads to an overall increase in illness
  • Over breathing/inefficient chest breathing creates a stress response
  • Dysfunction of facial structure – elongation, crowded teeth, jaw issues, and loss of muscle tone
  • Narrowing of airways encourages snoring and sleep apnea episodes

What Causes Mouth Breathing?

Mouth Breathing can have many causes and it’s important to get to the root of your mouth breathing if you wish to correct it. The following are some of the most common causes, the heart of which are inflammation and physical blockage.


A woman sneezing into a tissue
  • Allergies
  • Recurring Colds
Inflammation infographic
  • Enlarged Tonsils
  • Asthma
  • Respiratory Illness

Inflammation is an immune response to foreign materials entering the body. Increased blood flow to an area means an increase in immune cells fighting, and increased mucous production helps to flush out those intrusive particles.

Unfortunately, while you’re body is trying to fight the invader, it also blocks off your airway. If this is what’s causing your mouth breathing, you can look into ways to purify the air or ways to decrease bodily inflammation and boost your immune system.

Physical Blockages

Symbol on nose indicating deviated septum
  • Narrow Nasal Passages
  • Deviated Septum
mouth with tongue sticking out
  • Enlarged Tongue
  • Incorrect Tongue Placement
  • Low Dental Arch

Unlike inflammation caused by your immune system, sometimes you’re born with a bodily defect or develop one as a result of an injury. I consider these to be physical blockages since they are more mechanical in nature.

A deviated septum is usually the result of an injury to the face, and you can be born with narrow nostrils or develop them over time through scar tissue from repeated illness, same with enlarged tonsils or an enlarged tongue.

Most of the time these causes are remedied through surgery. If you believe the cause of your mouth breathing might be associated with a blockage that is more mechanical in nature, consider reaching out to an ENT doctor or dentist.

Signs You Might be a Mouth Breather

As we saw above, mouth breathing can cause any number of complications which may or may not be obvious.

Some of the major factors to look out for are the following:

One of the best indicators of mouth breathing is to determine if you are snoring at night. You can do this easily from the comfort of your home by using an app such as SnoreLab to record your nightly noises.

SnoreLab App

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Snore Lab is by far one of the best options out there right now for snoring and mouth-breathing audio pickup.

Waking up with a dry mouth can lead to a host of problems such as cracked lips, gum disease, tooth decay, and much more. Very often it is the case that if you have any of these symptoms, you might be mouth breathing at night.

I will say, however, this is not always absolute. I personally have woken up with a dry mouth but, since I keep proper tongue posture on the roof of my mouth, I had spent the night nose breathing.

In this case, it is still an important symptom to recognize given the host of issues that accompany a dry mouth, and seeking a solution to keep the mouth closed is still valid.

Let me give you an image: Napoleon Dynamite. The long face, the tired eyes, a droopy nose, a weak chin… definitely a mouth breather.

It has been studied and confirmed that long-term mouth breathers actually have a difference in facial structure from those who regularly breathe through their noses. [R] [R]

This usually begins early in childhood so it is important if you have small children to be able to recognize the signs early to prevent the deformation of their facial structure.

Low Energy during the day can be a sign that you are not getting adequate REM sleep throughout the night which can be resultant of mouth breathing complications.

Snoring, Sleep Apnea, and inefficient breathing result in lowered blood oxygen content and restless sleep, making you wake up in the morning still feeling exhausted.

The best way to monitor for this is to find a pulse oximeter to measure your blood oxygen content throughout the night, and/or you can find devices that measure your brain waves so you can see when you enter what level of REM sleep.

When you spend 8 hours a night with your jaw hanging open, it can be a bit sore. Your jaw is meant to be supported by your tongue which should be slightly suctioned to the roof of your mouth in a “mewing” position.

TMJ or Temporomandibular Joint disorders are often caused by improper jaw alignment (bite), stress, teeth grinding, dislocation, or other injuries to the joint and surrounding tissues.

Mouth breathers often have incorrect jaw alignment which then leads to stress on the TM Joint leading to dysfunction. This is, again, not an absolute marker of mouth breathing but should be taken into account with other symptoms.

Ways to Fix Mouth Breathing

Once you narrow down the fact that you are, or most likely are mouth breathing, then you can begin the road to recovery. Most of the time, the solution can be quite simple like taping your mouth shut or getting nasal dilators to widen your nostrils.

Other techniques are more labor intensive and include retraining yourself on the proper way to breathe, or retraining your tongue and jaw to be in proper alignment. These take daily practice but the effects are more than worthwhile.

Further still beyond these remedies, you might find your case a bit too severe – in the cases of Central Sleep Apnea, enlarged tonsils, or a severely deviated septum – you might need to seek out surgical intervention.

  • Learn more

Visit my article on Hacks to Stop Mouth Breathing to discover more about improving your nasal breathing.

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