Mouth Breathing Q&A on The Morning Blend

Mouth Breathing Q&A on The Morning Blend
Reviewed by
Published on
June 14, 2021
Updated on
February 15, 2023

If you can only breathe through your mouth, your nose isn't working the way it should. Dr. Ethan Handler went on The Morning Blend to answer some commonly asked questions about mouth breathing.

And welcome back. Well, if you're constantly at the pharmacy because of sinus infections, nasal congestion, or you can only breathe through your mouth and your nose is not working like it should. 85% of mouth breathing cases are compensating for nasal obstruction. That's right. As part of our Breathe Well, Sleep Well series with ADVENT, we have ADVENT Medical Director and board-certified sleep and sinus surgeon, Dr. Ethan Handler. And he can answer some common questions asked about mouth breathing. Good morning to you, Dr. Handler.

Good morning. Thanks for having us.

Thanks for joining me this morning. These are Facebook questions that we got about this, and I want you to answer these because I think they're going to relate to so many people. So this first one, the first Facebook question is wondering, how does someone know if they're breathing incorrectly?

Yeah, I mean, that's a great question. And you know, proper breathing always, always, always is through the nose, not through the mouth. Now the challenge with that is sometimes patients don't know if they're breathing the right way or not, or just not even paying attention to it. And so it really comes down to sometimes some detective work during that initial visit talking to patients, asking them questions about breathing they've never even thought about before. Versus other patients who are like, I never breathe through my nose. So a lot of it is just trying to help them think about it more and pay attention to it more.

That's so interesting. I bet a lot of people are thinking like, what's the deal with mouth breathing? My brother's a mouth breather, so I've never forgotten like eating cereal as a kid and hearing him breathe through his nose- his mouth, sorry, his mouth as he's like chewing. And I always thought it seems so uncomfortable. What's the big deal with mouth breathing?

Yeah. Like you said, I mean, sometimes it's somebody else pointing it out to them or it's a spouse or somebody else being like, Hey, why are you always breathing with your mouth open? And mouth breathing, you know, literally when I think if I wanted to give somebody, like, let's say a poor night's sleep, you know, thinking about when you're sick, when you have a stuffy nose, I would just pinch off their nose and send them off to bed. And a lot of people just live that life, you know? And so mouth breathing can lead to increased snoring and sleep apnea risk, you know, at nighttime. And then during the day, it's really a quality of life issue. You know, it feels good to breathe your nose. That's a quality life thing.

Amen. It really does. That's a good point. It feels good to breathe through your nose. Okay. So I love this next question because I think so many of us do things in our sleep that we're unaware of. The question is I wake up every morning with a dry mouth. Does that mean that I could be a mouth breather in my sleep?

Yeah, I'd say about 99% sure. You know, there's other things, side effects, medications and things that can cause dry mouth. But really if you're sitting there just breathing through your mouth all night, it's going to be dry. It's a common complaint when people come in. They got sore throats, their tonsils might feel inflamed. Their uvula-that's that dangly thing in the back of the throat-might be hanging down enlarged because it's like a punching bag getting beat up by storing and mouth breathing. And so it's usually a pretty tall tale sign. It's a question we ask every patient, you know, or a lot of people volunteer that information. Hey, I've got water by the bed stand. I wake up I'm parched, cotton mouth need to take a sip of water.

Huh? Good to know. I know you guys are all about, you know, permanent fixes, not just these temporary fixes, like throwing medication at you or whatever. You really want to fix the anatomy. So the next question I think is perfect. They asked, what are some solutions then to fix my mouth breathing?

So I mean, obviously we're all about kind of simple solutions in the office. Usually it's a combination of procedures that really gets that nose working. Takes about 20 minutes. It's kind of analogous to like the dental world, right? A dental procedure that you come and you leave and you go home and you go about your day. It can make a big improvement for patients. So things like balloon, sinuplasty, turbinate reduction, that's kind of a lot of what we do. You know, in the office and patients are comfortable and again move on with their day and their week not needing pain medication.

Well, and everybody wants to get off of any pain medication. Like I think that's important as well. You know, here's one thing I want to know. I kind of want to know mainly because of my brother, but are we born mouth breathers or do we learn to do that somehow? Or how does that work?

Yeah, no, that's, that's a great question. So it's a learned behavior, you know, I call it a habit of necessity, right? So for people who can't breathe through the nose, like they gotta breathe through something, otherwise you're gonna have a challenge, you know? But when we're actually born, we're obligate nasal breathers, that's an emergency in babies, if they can't breathe through their nose. Like a big emergency. And so it's a multifactorial thing, right? Environment, allergies, things like that. But what happens is when you're a kid, if you starting to breathe through your mouth and the physician or parent or whoever maybe isn't picking up on it or noticing it, it can actually change the way that your face develops. And so it's important to kind of nip that in the bud early on. And then as an adult, you know, there's no time like the present. So if you're breathing through your mouth, it doesn't mean you have to continue breathing through your mouth. You know, there's things that can be done.

Things that can be done. A quick meeting with you guys is one of them. And I know you do very easy consultations, right?

Yeah. I mean, obviously we try to lower whatever barrier there is, you know, like for us, if, if it's unacceptable in our mindset to be, you know, booking out a month. We want patients to be able to get through the door that want to see us, you know, and as a medical provider in the community here and even in the Illinois region. Patients who want to see us, they need to be able to see us.

That's great. I love what you guys do there. So thank you so much for joining me, Dr. Handler. It was great to see you.

Thanks for having us.

Absolutely. Here's how you can schedule that consultation. Go to and you can schedule online in just 60 seconds. Most insurances are accepted there and there's no referral required. There's five Southeastern Milwaukee locations. Okay. There's Wauwatosa. Mequon, Oconomowoc, Oak Creek and Pleasant Prairie. And they also have offices, just so you know, in Appleton and in the Chicagoland area, as well. So no excuse not to make your appointment.

First published by ADVENT on
June 14, 2021
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Mouth Breathing Q&A on The Morning Blend