Sense of smell

Sometimes I see children who only seem to have their mouth closed when eating, yet I am sure that if the teaching of keeping your mouth closed while eating could spill over into the rest of the day then children would have a lot fewer health problems.

Constant mouth-breathing causes teeth to grow crookedly and leads to orthodontic bills. It dries out saliva, making you more prone to tooth decay or gum problems. It also makes swallowing more of an effort because the person has to move their head each time and this becomes tiring.

Breathing through your mouth doesn't do a good job of filtering out germs, dust, pollen and other rubbish floating around in the air and so your tonsils get more of a work out, and you are more likely to suck irritants into your lungs.

Being slack-jawed makes it more difficult to have good posture because you have to tip the top of your head backwards slightly to balance that big ball on top of your neck. This can lead to neck strain and raised shoulders.

Last, but not least, breathing through your mouth generally leads to a blocked nose, which encourages breathing through the mouth, encouraging all of the above.

Parents of mouth-breathing kids frequently don't seem to notice, or even consider it to be a problem. And frequently this is because at least one of them also mostly breathes through their mouth. I remember one father saying that he thought that breathing through the nose while exercising was impossible, because he never breathed through his mouth while sleeping, let alone while exercising.

"I can't do that" is a common response to the suggestion of breathing through the nose while exercising, especially from male cyclists, who insist that it is impossible to go slower the three or four times that is needed to get their legs to adjust to the change in breathing. Yet it is true that exercising while breathing through the nose will work. Yet if you watch wild animals at play, or chasing food, they will have their mouth closed, and so surprisingly, will their prey.

Exercise does not only mean running around the block, but it is virtually any time that you move. Next time you stand up from your computer; do you continue to breathe easily through your nose? What about when you reach up to the top shelf of a cupboard, do some gardening, or put on your socks?

Apart from breathing through the nose being the natural way to breathe, and the nose being a fantastic filter, warmer and humidifier of air, what else is it on your face for? Apart from holding your glasses up, the answer is for smelling.

Aromas are incredibly important in adding safety, satisfaction and joy to our lives. Perhaps it is the first whiff of smoke that tells us there is fire about, which allows us to escape. Maybe it is the smell of concrete becoming wet on a hot day just as it is starting to rain, your favourite flower, or a fragrant curry wafting through the air on a cold winter's night.

All of these things tell us something about our environment and ourselves. In a primal way a sense of smell could be life saving, but on another level, aromas add depth to our food, our moods and our sense of well being. If you don't breath through your nose, then you will miss out on many of these things that enrich our lives.