Dr. Nammy talks about mouth breathing, the problems it causes with your health and its impact on your teeth and gums, and why nasal breathing is better.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Dr. Nammy Patel, founder of Green Dentistry in San Francisco, California, helping patients recognize the vital connection between dental health and whole body health, and author of the best-selling book Age With Style: Guide to a Youthful Smile and Healthy Living. Today our topic is nasal breathing and your teeth. Welcome Dr. Nammy.

Dr. Nammy Patel:  Thank you, John. Thank you for having me.

What Is Nasal Breathing?

John: Sure. So what is nasal breathing versus mouth breathing?

Dr. Nammy: So nasal breathing is when you breathe through the nose, and mouth breathing is when we breathe through our mouth.

What Problems Does Mouth Breathing Cause?

John: Okay. And what problems with your mouth and your teeth does mouth breathing cause?

Dr. Nammy: So the first thing we want to do is we always want to focus on nasal breathing because when we breathe through our nose, we have these little nose hairs, which activates something called nitric oxide. So nitric oxide is an essential element in our body because it keeps our blood pressure in the right range, it activates our hormones, it fights disease. So that’s the main reason why we want nasal breathing.

When we mouth breath, we’re still getting oxygen. It’s just, we’re not getting the benefits of boosting our immune system when we’re breathing through our mouth, and it causes more problems.

So when we breathe through the mouth, the mouth becomes really dry. When the mouth becomes really dry, it causes gum disease, because it gets the bacteria to stick to your teeth, number one. Number two, when we’re mouth breathing, a lot of times it’s because our tongue gets in the way, we’re not getting enough oxygen, so we tend to clench and grind more of our teeth. So that’s what happens with mouth breathing; we tend to break teeth and we also get gum disease. And both of them result in pain, chipped teeth, [loss of] time and money, and just things that we don’t really want.

Other Medical Issues Linked to Mouth Breathing

John: And are there other medical problems in the rest of your body that end up being associated with mouth breathing?

Dr. Nammy: Yes, a lot of patients who aren’t breathing through their nose actually end up getting ADHD, is really common; hormonal issues; allergies with the belly is another, or allergies inside the belly. Food allergies is very common as well, and a lot of colitis. So their intestine is not working as well as we want to because that’s your immune system again. And when we breathe through our nose, we really activate the natural body working really well together.

Can You Train Yourself to Breathe Through Your Nose?

John: Okay. And do people just tend to breathe one way or the other, and if you are a mouth breather, can you train yourself to breathe through your nose, and how do you do that?

Dr. Nammy: Yeah. So there’s a lot of things we can do if somebody is a mouth breather versus a nose breather. So ideally we want everyone to breathe through the nose. Major reasons why people are breathing through the mouth is because their nose is stuffed up. So the first place we go to is really making sure…what is wrong with the nose? Is it that there’s a lot of allergies? You need an allergy pill? Or is it that your actual sinuses are too small and your pathway to get to the sinus is really small, so you’re not getting the air that it needs to because our body’s going to go to path of least resistance? So is it going to be easier for the body to take a breath through the nose or is it easier for the body to take the breath through the mouth?

And it doesn’t care how. It just wants to make sure it gets oxygen. So it’s going to do that. So we focus on the nose and we look at, if the passageways are small, we can do simple laser surgeries where we’re able to open up the sinuses so patients can naturally breathe better. Sometimes with patients, the tongue’s too large and that’s kind of genetic, so it’s hard to fix that. So what we do is we have these devices that we can make for patients that help open the nose and lift the tongue up out of the way, so that’s what works.

Devices to Help with Nose Breathing

John: Are any of those types of devices something that somebody could put on or wear at night. Because I’m wondering, obviously during the day, you can be a little bit more conscious of trying to close your mouth and breathe through your nose. But at night you have no control over what you’re doing while you’re sleeping. So what can you do about that?

Dr. Nammy: Yes. And that’s exactly the reason why we have these devices, is that it lifts the tongue out of the way and opens the nose up. So, naturally, you have the path of least resistance is getting the air through the nose and through the back of the throat and into the lungs. And these devices are easy. We can custom make them for each patient. And the beauty of these devices is that it helps with inflammation as well. It helps puts things in the right place. It helps make sure that you’re getting enough oxygen. People always come back saying, “I feel like I wake up more rested. I feel like I can focus better.” In general, a lot of patients trying to lose weight will end up losing weight because they’re actually finally breathing through their nose versus breathing through their mouth.

John: Does it also help with snoring as well?

Dr. Nammy: Yes, it absolutely does. And snoring is caused because the tongue falls back on the back of the throat. So this fixes that problem. So it fixes a lot of marriages too, John.

John: Sounds good! All right. Well that’s great information, Dr. Nammy. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Dr. Nammy: My pleasure.

John: And for more information about Green Dentistry, visit the website at sfgreendentist.com or call (415) 433-0119.