In his book Think Like a Monk, Jay Shetty explains that he lived in a Monastery in India for three years, and on his first day there, he was shown the importance of learning how to breathe properly. And while breathing is an essential part of life, did you know that it can also have a significant impact on our dental health? Although often overlooked as a factor in our overall health and well-being, recent studies have shown that the way we breathe can affect our oral health in a variety of ways.
What is the Right Way to Breathe?
The right way of breathing is to take slow, deep breaths from our diaphragm, rather than shallow breaths from our chest. This type of breathing helps to relax our body and mind and can help reduce stress and anxiety. It can also help to improve our overall health and well-being.
While it is very common, it’s not recommended to breathe through the mouth. Breathing through the nose is the preferred method as it helps to filter and warm the air before it enters the lungs. Now we are going to teach you the correct way of breathing to provide our bodies with better oxygenation:
- In through our nose, take a deep and gentle breath.
- While inhaling, get the air down into the belly, expanding our lower ribs, not our chest.
- And then back out through our nose, exhaling slightly longer than we inhale.
How Can Breathing Affect Oral Health?
The correct way of breathing for oral health is to breathe through the nose. This helps to filter and warm the air before it enters the lungs and can help to reduce the risk of dry mouth, which can increase the risk of cavities and other oral health issues. Additionally, it can help to reduce jaw clenching and teeth grinding.
The mouth is the gateway to the lungs, and when we breathe through our mouths, we allow bacteria and other particles to enter our bodies. This can lead to an increased risk of cavities, gum disease, and other oral problems. If you are interested in learning more about why mouth breathing is bad for your child, read this article.
Breathing and Mental Health Connection
The first thing to understand is that breathing is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for regulating involuntary bodily functions such as heart rate, and it can also have a profound effect on our mental health. Recent research has shown that the way we breathe can influence our emotional state and even our cognitive abilities. By understanding the science behind breathing and its effects on the brain, we can use this knowledge to improve our mental health.
For example, when we are stressed or anxious, our breathing tends to become shallow and rapid. This type of breathing can lead to increased levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, high blood pressure, muscle weakness, headaches, severe fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and weight gain.
On the other hand, slow, deep breathing can help to reduce stress and anxiety and can help to improve focus and concentration. Additionally, it can help to reduce the symptoms of depression, provide a stronger respiratory function and better immune system, balance blood pressure, and help you find deep sleep.
The Connection Between Breathing, The Nervous System, and Overall Health
Breathing has a direct impact on the regulation of the nervous system. Deep-paced breathing can help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming the body and helping your body continue with the functions that don’t involve risk or danger but are still key in keeping you alive and healthy.
On the other hand, shallow, rapid breathing can activate the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s fight-or-flight response. By consciously controlling the breath, it is possible to regulate the nervous system.
In Conscious Breathing, Anders Olson says, “By taking control of our breathing, we can influence our thoughts and feelings, our internal organs such as the heart in the brain, as well as our bodily functions such as digestion and immune system.”
When we breathe, we take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. This exchange of gases is essential for our bodies to function properly. When we don’t get enough oxygen, our bodies become stressed, and our immune system weakens. With a lack of oxygen, we may feel shortness of breath, headache, and confusion.
There are several breathing techniques that can be implemented to help improve our health. These include diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, and pursed-lip breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing involves taking slow, deep breaths from the diaphragm, while abdominal breathing involves focusing on the movement of the abdomen as you inhale and exhale. Pursed-lip breathing involves breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth while pursing the lips.
Breathwork is another type of therapy that uses conscious breathing techniques to help improve physical, mental, and emotional health. It can help to reduce stress and anxiety, improve focus and concentration, and increase energy levels. Breathwork can also help to improve overall well-being and promote relaxation.
A New Way to Calm the Fear of Going to the Dentist
If you notice your child is afraid of their next dental appointment or in any daily life situation, you can help them get back into the present with the next breathwork exercise to calm and relax:
- Find a comfortable position to sit or lay down in, close your eyes, roll back your shoulders, and bring your awareness to the present moment, maybe focus on the AC sound or cars passing by.
- Whenever your mind wanders, gently and softly bring it back to calm, balance, ease, stillness, and peace.
- Now become aware of your natural breathing pattern. Don’t force or pressure your breath; just become aware of your natural breathing pattern.
- Breathe in through your nose (4 counts)
- Hold (4 counts)
- Exhale through your mouth (4 counts)
- Repeat (10 reps)
Sometimes the answer to most of our troubles is as simple as stopping to take in some air. Let’s teach that to our kids to help improve their oral and overall health.