The nose knows
By Drs. Karla Bloomquist and Chiarina Iregui, SoundBridge Dental Arts and Sleep Therapy
What is the first thing that we do as humans when we are born? What is the last thing we do as humans before we leave this earth? Breathe!
Breathing is the most fundamental of needs. It trumps the need for food and water. Some might argue that your beating heart or brain function are more important. The reason you have a heart is for the purpose of pumping blood throughout the body. Blood provides oxygen to your organs, oxygen obtained by breathing. Your brain will not function if deprived of oxygen for more than six minutes. Where does this oxygen come from? Breathing! It all comes back to breathing.
If breathing is so essential, shouldn’t you be doing it correctly? This might seem like a ridiculous question given that breathing is something we, as humans, do automatically. However, most of us do not breathe correctly.
By not breathing correctly, you are not optimizing oxygen consumption. This might sound like a silly question, but why is oxygen important? It comes down to every cell in your body. They must have oxygen—if they don’t, they die.
So what does proper breathing look like? If you are breathing properly, then you are breathing comfortably through your nose with your lips together, teeth apart, with your tongue at the roof of your mouth. It also includes using your diaphragm, as well as your back and stomach, not your shoulders and neck. Sounds simple right? Unfortunately, many people do not breathe in this manner.
Why is it so important to breathe through your nose as opposed to your mouth?
The nose is your first defense against bacteria and viruses that can make you sick. Turbinates are ridges inside the nose. It is the job of these ridges, along with hair-like projections in the nose called cilia, to keep as many germs, dust and debris out of your lungs as possible. Your sinuses produce mucus, otherwise known as snot. This mucous also assists in the capture of unwanted air debris and germs. By breathing through the mouth, this first line of defense is eliminated.
The turbinates also humidify and warm the air we breathe. This is important so that the airway does not shrink, making it more difficult to breathe. This can be particularly bad for people with asthma.
Mouth breathing can cause the airway to not function at its normal capacity because the air is cold and dry. A dry airway leads to poor oxygen exchange.
Dryness due to mouth breathing can also cause dental diseases such as decay, misaligned teeth and gum disease.
By exhaling through the nose, the process of breathing is slowed down and a back pressure develops in the airway. This allows more oxygen to be transferred from the lungs to the bloodstream.
Mouth breathing in children can lead to facial deformities that will cause a small airway as an adult. A lower chin, longer face, less pronounced cheekbones and narrow jaws will predispose a child to a lifetime of difficult breathing.
Why does all of this matter?
Oxygen is essential for cellular activity. Proper breathing allows for optimum oxygen consumption and is one of the best things we can do for our cells.