Nose Breathing vs Mouth Breathing

Woman breathing with eyes closed, leaning back on a couch.


Did you know that there’s a significant difference between nose vs mouth breathing? Not only do the sensations differ, but one is significantly more effective than the other at helping you get the oxygen your body needs. 

Beyond that, while each way of breathing can have its benefits and drawbacks, one method rises above the other in almost every way. 

Read on to learn why you might opt for nose breathing vs mouth breathing and why the way you breathe can impact your health more than you might think.


What is Nose Breathing?

Nose breathing is how most of us breathe without thinking, inhaling, and exhaling through our noses. 

Think about how awkward it feels when you have a stuffy nose and you have to breathe through your mouth because you can’t breathe through your nose at all. It’s just not how the body naturally wants to breathe. 

That said, many people do breathe through their mouths sometimes. The most common causes of mouth breathing are:

  • Anxiety or stress
  • Breathing issues due to allergies, asthma, or lung disease
  • Deviated septum
  • Enlarged adenoids, tonsils, or both
  • Exertion 
  • Nasal congestion from allergies, illness, or sinus infections
  • Nasal polyps
  • Shape of the jaw or nose
  • Sleep apnea

In certain situations, people can get in the habit of mouth breathing after an illness or due to ongoing stress or anxiety. They may continue to breathe through their mouth, rather than their nose, simply out of habit, even after they no longer need to breathe that way. 

In this case, they may need to put in an intentional effort to break the habit and get back to breathing through their nose again.  

You may not realize you breathe through the mouth, especially if it occurs when you sleep. These are some common signs that you may have a mouth breathing habit:

  • Brain fog
  • Bad breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Hoarseness
  • Snoring
  • Feeling irritable and tired when you wake 


How to Break the Habit of Mouth Breathing

First, you should determine if the cause of your mouth breathing is due to a medical condition, such as a deviated septum, small nostrils, or you are congested. If these conditions do apply to you, your doctor will likely want to treat them. 

There may be some cold or allergy medications you can take to help with congestion. If none of these apply to you, there are some things you can do to help break the habit of mouth breathing. To help break the habit of mouth breathing, you can try some of these preventative measures: 

  • Lose any excess weight: Excess weight can cause you to breathe out of the mouth. Getting to a healthy BMI can help you begin breathing out of your nose vs mouth breathing.
  • Avoid alcohol and sleeping pills: Alcohol and sleeping pills can cause mouth breathing, as the muscles in your throat and mouth become relaxed. Avoiding alcohol and sleeping medication can help you breathe out of the nose.
  • Use special pillows: Sometimes, you can use special pillows to help prevent mouth breathing. Memory foam pillows that are neck contoured are a good example of a pillow that can help keep your head elevated to prevent mouth breathing.
  • Practice nose breathing throughout the day: Practice breathing in and out of your nose throughout the day. You will notice that nose breathing vs mouth breathing may take time to adjust to, but it is achievable with practice.
  • Keep your nose clean: Many mouth breathers vs nose breathers do not keep their noses clean. A clean nose can make it easier to breathe out of your nose because your airway is clear.


Nose Breathing vs Mouth Breathing: How Do They Differ?

When it comes to mouth breathing vs nose breathing, there are clear differences. Spend a couple of minutes breathing through your mouth and you’ll notice them right away. 

Try drinking some water or eating a snack without breathing through your nose. What do you notice? You probably won’t be able to taste whatever you’re consuming very well, and you’ll have to pause frequently to breathe. 

Your mouth will probably start to feel dry very quickly and you may even notice your breath becomes unpleasant. 

When you breathe through your nose, however, you can smell and taste things fully. You can eat and drink while breathing through your nose without choking. 

Your saliva doesn’t dry up, so your mouth stays properly lubricated. In short, it feels better. Starting to see why nose breathing might be the better option? 

Believe it or not, there are even more reasons that breathing through your nose is better for you.


Which is Better: Nose vs Mouth Breathing

Unless there is a temporary challenge such as an acute congestion or you’re exercising hard, you should be breathing through your nose. Your respiratory system is set up for nose breathing, and your nose is able to process the air differently and more effectively. This is the main issue with mouth breathers vs nose breathers. 

Because your nose is designed to filter, humidify, and warm the air before it reaches your lungs, the air you get from nose breathing is healthier for and better tolerated by your lungs. 

Generally, there are no disadvantages to breathing through the nose, there are only various advantages. 

There are disadvantages when it comes to mouth breathing vs nose breathing, such as cracked lips, crowded teeth, risk of developing cavities, gum disease, bad breath, early aging, and risk of developing high blood pressure. 

However, there are a few circumstances where mouth breathing may be necessary. 

You may need to breathe through your mouth if you have small nostrils, nasal congestion, or a deviated septum. For the most part, mouth breathing is unnecessary unless you have specific medical reasons to breathe through the mouth. 

Between nose breathing vs mouth breathing, nose breathing is the clear winner.  


Benefits of Nose Breathing vs Mouth Breathing 

Ultimately, your body is designed for nose breathing, so it’s no surprise that it simply works better for you. Breathing through your nose also offers a number of different health benefits that can help you in a variety of different ways. Some of these benefits include:

  • Controlling the air temperature: When air is too cold or too hot, it irritates your lungs. When breathing through your nose, the air is tempered before it reaches your lungs.
  • Filtering the air: Air is filled with all sorts of irritants, from dust and dirt to allergens and toxins. The cilia in your nose filter much of this out before it gets to your lungs.
  • Humidifying the air: If you’ve ever woken up after a night of mouth breathing and noticed how dry and sore your throat is, you understand the importance of humidifying the air you breathe. 
  • Improving oxygen intake: Nose breathing improves your oxygen intake in a number of ways. First, it encourages you to breathe correctly, filling your lungs fully and breathing into your belly. Additionally, your nose releases nitric oxide, which helps widen your blood vessels, improving oxygen circulation throughout your body.
  • Maintaining proper diaphragm function: Breathing through your nose encourages you to use your diaphragm correctly and breathe efficiently, improving your lung volume. 
  • Reduces the risk of snoring: People who breathe through their mouths are more likely to snore and experience sleep apnea. 
  • Supporting oral health: Breathing through your mouth can cause bad breath, dry mouth, gingivitis, tooth decay, and tooth or jaw abnormalities. Breathing through your nose, on the other hand, helps keep your mouth properly lubricated with saliva, helping to protect your teeth and gums and reducing oral health problems. 
  • Lowers risk of allergies and hay fever: Nose breathing vs mouth breathing helps to filter out foreign particles because of your nasal hair. Nasal hair filters out pollen, dust, and other allergens, preventing them from reaching your lungs.
  • Reduces risk of coughing: Breathing through your nose reduces your risk of coughing. It helps to moisten and sterilize your airway, reducing any irritation that can cause you to cough.
  • Supports the correct formation of your mouth and teeth: Breathing through the nose supports the correct formation of your mouth and teeth. When breathing through the mouth, your face can become longer. You can have a flatter nose, a high palate, and weak cheek muscles. Nose breathing helps prevent an open bite, crossbite, and impacted teeth.


Nose Breathing Benefits Your Overall Health

In a health benefits comparison of nose breathing vs mouth breathing, there’s simply no contest. Breathing through your nose should be practiced whenever possible. 

Pay attention to times when you revert to mouth breathing, and intentionally switch to nose breathing at those times, noticing how much better it feels. 

While you may still need to use mouth breathing from time to time if you’re stuffy or exercising hard, practicing breathing through your nose the majority of the time is good for your health. 

To learn more about how your overall health can be impacted by the way you breathe, and by other aspects of your health, reserve your copy of If Your Mouth Could Talk by Dr. Kami Hoss. 

As a dental expert, dentist, and dad, Dr. Kami Hoss has spent the last 20 years researching how one aspect of your health, like nose breathing vs mouth breathing, can change the course of your overall health. Discover how one change, like addressing an unhealthy mouth, could improve your overall health for years to come.

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About the Author

About Dr. Kami Hoss

Dr. Kami Hoss is a nationally sought-after expert with a master’s in craniofacial biology from USC, a doctorate in dental surgery from UCLA, and a post-doctorate in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. With over 25 years of experience in the dental field, Dr. Hoss is a #1 National Best Seller author frequently featured on NBC, ABC, FOX, NPR, and CBS affiliates, and founder of The Super Dentists, one of the leading multi-specialty dental practices in the country.

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