Sure, there’s a biological reason why most people prefer to breathe out their nose, but there’s a social one, too. That is, a lot of people don’t want to be a mouth-breather, a trait culturally associated with stupidity.
But now that everyone is wearing a mask in public, you might find that these fears of judgment surrounding mouth-breathing have disappeared — no one can even see your mouth, and for some people, breathing through your mouth is more comfortable when wearing a mask despite the fact that you’ll be trapped to smell your own breath. Besides, is this of any consequence anyway?
Probably not, but it could be. As dentist Steven Lin explained to us previously, breathing through our noses is our primary method. We only breathe through our mouths when we have no other choice. “Nasal breathing is the way to deliver oxygen to the body,” he says. “The nasal sinuses warm and humidify air, and crucially mixes air with nitric oxide. Nitric oxide increases the perfusion and gas exchange in the lungs. If you breathe through the mouth, you receive none of this. Mouth-breathing is a survival mechanism only, not for day-to-day use.”
However, one can develop a mouth-breathing habit. Beyond “looking dumb,” this can have drastic consequences. In fact, it can even change your facial structure, resulting in a weaker-looking jaw. It can also cause crooked teeth, sleep apnea and has been linked to dementia.
If for some reason you find yourself mouth-breathing with a mask on, it’d be wise to consciously stop it from becoming a habit. Odds are, this would happen naturally, as nasal breathing is ultimately a healthier, more comfortable method. If it doesn’t, though, Lin has suggested forming a breathing practice where you intentionally don’t breathe through your mouth:
- Press your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
- Close your lips.
- Take a deep breath through your nostrils, so your belly is blown up like a balloon.
- Inhale for 4 to 5 seconds.
- Hold for 1 to 2 seconds.
- Exhale for 6 to 7 seconds (or longer than inhale).
- Wait 1 to 2 seconds and start again.
If you aren’t able to fix the issue on your own, you might need surgery to fix your nasal structure, allowing you to breathe easier. You might also need surgery to fix the massive overbite you develop, too. But if mouth-breathing has never been a problem for you before, it’s probably not going to become one just because you have to wear a mask when you go to the grocery store.