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Identifying an airway disorder can be fairly easy if you understand the signs and symptoms. Ask yourself the following:

  • Does your child sleep through the night?

  • Does your child toss and turn all night or do their legs kick often throughout the night?

  • How many times does your child chew each bite or mouthful before swallowing? Can they swallow without gagging?

  • Does your child almost always have a stuffy nose?

  • Does your child have a lisp or an inability to stick out their tongue very far?

  • Does your child grind their teeth or often wake up with a headache?

  • Does your child have a "worried" expression when swallowing?

  • Does your child still wet the bed late in childhood?

  • Does your child sleep with an open mouth? Can your child close and keep their mouth closed?

  • Has your child been diagnosed with ADHD or depression?

  • Does your child's head lean forward or do they have a sway-back posture?

These are just a few of the questions that can help you identify if your child might be dealing with a sleep-breathing or other airway disorder.

Signs of Airway Obstruction

  • Mouth breathing

  • Open or slack-mouthed posture

  • Snoring or noisy sleep

  • Night terrors

  • Bed-wetting

  • Chronic nasal discharge/runny nose

  • Dark circles or allergic "black eyes"

  • Tossing, turning, thrashing and restless sleep

  • Messy sheets and blankets

  • Nail-biting

  • Crooked teeth

  • Frequent earaches

  • Falling asleep in school

  • Awakening feeling un-refreshed

GASP Airway Health: The Hidden Path to Wellness, by Dr. Michael Gelb and Dr. Howard Hindin

Dentists can use facial alignment to help identify possible issues. Poorly defined cheekbones, crooked teeth, an elongated or narrow face, and a set-back jaw are all indicators of an airway disorder.

mouth breathing in children

JAWS: The Story of a Hidden Epidemic, by Sandra Kahn and Paul R. Ehrlich

Crooked teeth can be a signal of a more serious problem, such as a poorly developed jaw. Malocclusion is often accompanied by mouth breathing, which is another sign of an airway disorder. In fact, mouth breathing, malocclusion, and sleep disturbance are often found together in children with misdiagnosed airway disorders.

Sharon Moore
interview with sharon moore
  • The Importance of Sleep

  • Understanding Disorders of Sleep & the Connection to Airway Disorders

  • How to Recognize the Red Flags

  • What You Can Do to Help Your Kids Sleep

  • How to Build a Healthy Airway

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea Causes

Here are just a few actions parents can do immediately to protect children from oral issues and possible airway disorders:

  • Breastfeed for at least a year and do not use a pacifier until weaning is complete.

  • Wean onto foods that require chewing (watch for choking).

  • Monitor your child's sleeping habits for mouth breathing and signs of restless sleep.

  • Work on your child or infant's posture.

  • Teach them to chew gum with their mouths closed.

  • See your pediatrician immediately if you detect any signs or symptoms of an airway disorder.

  • Monitor your child's sleep. If your child exhibits any signs or symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, contact you pediatrician or airway dentist for evaluation.

kids sleep issues
oral health for children
Airway Management
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