We come to you! Now providing in-home & virtual services. Schedule your free consult now! Transform ‘try’ into TRYUMPH!

Mouth Breathing vs Nose Breathing: Which Is Better for Athletes?

Mouth Breathing vs Nose Breathing: Which Is Better for Athletes?

Posted on May 27th, 2024.

Breathing is a fundamental aspect of athletic performance, yet many athletes overlook the importance of how they breathe. 

The debate between mouth breathing vs nose breathing is not just about preference; it has significant implications for athletic performance, overall health, and even dental health. 

This article explores the differences between mouth and nose breathing, the causes of mouth breathing, and the benefits of nasal breathing for athletes.

What is Mouth Breathing?

Mouth breathing occurs when an individual primarily breathes through their mouth instead of their nose. This can happen occasionally, such as during intense physical activity, or it can become a habitual breathing pattern. While it may seem harmless, chronic mouth breathing can have several negative effects on health and athletic performance. Unlike nasal breathing, mouth breathing does not filter, warm, or humidify the air entering the lungs, which can lead to various issues.

Problems Associated with Mouth Breathing

  • Reduced Oxygen Efficiency: Mouth breathing can lead to inefficient oxygen exchange, as the air does not pass through the nasal passages, which help optimize oxygen absorption.
  • Increased Risk of Respiratory Infections: Without the natural filtration provided by the nose, airborne particles and pathogens are more likely to enter the lungs, increasing the risk of infections.
  • Dry Mouth and Throat: Breathing through the mouth can cause dryness in the oral cavity and throat, leading to discomfort and a higher risk of oral health issues.
  • Sleep Disorders: Mouth breathing is associated with sleep disorders such as snoring and sleep apnea, which can severely impact sleep quality and overall health.
  • Dental Problems: Chronic mouth breathing can affect dental health by altering tongue positioning and increasing the risk of malocclusion, tooth decay, and gum disease.
  • Poor Athletic Performance: Due to reduced oxygen efficiency and increased fatigue, athletes who mouth breathe may experience diminished performance and endurance.

So, what triggers this unnatural way of breathing? Next, let's explore the common causes of mouth breathing, which can help in identifying and correcting this breathing pattern.

Causes of Mouth Breathing

Mouth breathing can result from various underlying issues, each contributing to the development of this habitual breathing pattern. Understanding these causes is crucial for identifying and addressing mouth breathing effectively.


Allergies are a common cause of mouth breathing, particularly in children. When allergens such as pollen, dust, or pet dander cause nasal congestion, individuals often resort to mouth breathing to obtain sufficient air. Chronic nasal congestion due to allergies can lead to habitual mouth breathing, even when the congestion is not present.

Issues with the Tonsils

Enlarged tonsils or adenoids can obstruct the airway, making nasal breathing difficult and causing individuals to breathe through their mouth. This is especially common in children and can lead to sleep-disordered breathing, snoring, and sleep apnea. Addressing these issues through medical intervention or surgery can help restore normal breathing patterns.

Myofunctional Deficits

Orofacial Myofunctional disorders, such as airway obstruction, tongue tie, and improper tongue positioning, can also cause mouth breathing. These issues affect the way the muscles and structures of the mouth and throat function. For instance, a tongue tie (ankyloglossia) restricts the tongue's movement, preventing it from resting properly against the roof of the mouth and encouraging mouth breathing. Additionally, airway obstructions due to structural anomalies or muscular dysfunctions can make nasal breathing challenging.

Chronic Nasal Congestion

Chronic nasal congestion, whether due to sinusitis, deviated septum, or other nasal obstructions, can force individuals to breathe through their mouth. Persistent nasal congestion limits airflow through the nasal passages, making mouth breathing a necessary alternative.

Structural Abnormalities

Structural abnormalities, such as a deviated septum or nasal polyps, can impede airflow through the nose. These conditions create physical barriers that make nasal breathing difficult, leading individuals to adopt mouth breathing as a compensatory mechanism.

Habitual Behaviors

Sometimes, mouth breathing can develop simply out of habit, particularly in children. Factors such as thumb-sucking, pacifier use, or prolonged bottle feeding can encourage mouth breathing patterns. Over time, these habits can lead to persistent mouth breathing, even in the absence of physical obstructions.

It's time now to explore the benefits of nasal breathing for athletes, highlighting how this breathing technique can enhance athletic performance and overall health.

Benefits of Nasal Breathing for Athletes

Nasal breathing offers numerous benefits for athletes, contributing to improved performance and overall health. Here are some key advantages:

1. Improved Oxygen Intake

Nasal breathing enhances oxygen intake and delivery to the body. The nasal passages produce nitric oxide, which helps to dilate blood vessels, improving oxygen absorption in the lungs and increasing oxygen delivery to muscles. This can enhance endurance and performance during physical activities.

2. Reduced Risk of Respiratory Infections & Allergies

The nose acts as a natural filter, trapping dust, pollen, and other airborne particles before they can enter the lungs. This filtration system helps reduce the risk of respiratory infections and allergies, keeping athletes healthier and more capable of maintaining consistent training schedules.

3. Optimal Respiratory Function

Breathing through the nose also humidifies the air, which is beneficial for the respiratory system. Humidified air reduces the risk of dry throat and irritation, which can occur with mouth breathing. This helps maintain optimal respiratory function, especially during intense exercise.

4. Improved Sleep Quality

Nasal breathing can significantly improve sleep quality. Proper nasal breathing ensures that the airway remains open during sleep, reducing the likelihood of snoring and sleep apnea. Better sleep quality translates to improved recovery and performance for athletes.

5. Improved Dental Health

Nasal breathing positively impacts dental health by promoting proper tongue positioning. When breathing through the nose, the tongue naturally rests against the roof of the mouth, supporting the development of a healthy dental arch and reducing the risk of dental issues such as malocclusion and tooth decay.

Related: How to Find a Good Speech Therapist in Texas: Smaller vs Bigger Speech Therapy Services

Wrapping Up

Mouth breathing can lead to various health issues and diminished athletic performance. In contrast, nasal breathing offers numerous benefits, including improved oxygen intake, natural filtration and humidification of the air, better sleep quality, and enhanced dental health.

At Tryumph Speech Therapy, we specialize in helping children and athletes improve their breathing patterns and overall health. Our comprehensive services address articulation, fluency, receptive and expressive language, pragmatic language, cognitive aspects of communication, and sensory feeding. We are dedicated to helping you and your loved ones achieve optimal health and performance.

Stay tuned for our upcoming breathing workshop for athletes, targeting parents and coaches, where we will delve deeper into these topics and provide practical tips for optimizing breathing patterns.

To learn more aboutour services, Book a Free Discovery Call.

Contact us at (512) 898-9858 or email us at [email protected]. Let us help you transform "try" into TRYUMPH and achieve your athletic potential through better breathing.

Send a Message

Tryumph Speech Therapy provides elite care in Austin and beyond!

We will respond to your message within 1-2 business days.
You may also text us at 512-898-9858.