Children that sleep with their mouths open consistently are often exhibiting signs of a sleep disorder. There are more than 90 diagnosable sleep disorders. One specific sleep disorder, sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), can affect your child's brain, heart, blood pressure, appetite, teeth, and jaw development.
Mouth breathing during sleep may occur because of some type of obstruction in the upper airway, such as a blocked nose or throat. There could be something harmless causing this, such as a stuffy nose from a cold or allergies. It could also be caused by other, more complex conditions such as a pediatric airway disorder.
WHAT CAUSES YOUR CHILD TO SLEEP WITH THEIR MOUTH OPEN?
Newborns naturally breathe through their noses. However, if their nasal passage is blocked, that can cause mouth breathing.
A misformed or smeller jaw is the primary reason why mouth breathing occurs. The ideal jaw of your child should be wide and U-shaped. However, it is now more common for jaws to be smaller, which results in overcrowded teeth and crooked smiles.
Moreover, they cause slack-mouth overbites and bites that appear to be out of position. A V-shaped jaw results in a narrow and high palate.
When your child sleeps, you are more likely to notice him or her mouth breathing. It may also be one of their regular habits even when they are awake. Young and developing brains are at risk from mouth breathing regardless of when it occurs.
HOW DOES MOUTH BREATHING IMPACT A CHILD'S DEVELOPMENT?
Breathing through your nose is critical for health and how our bodies were designed to operate. Your nose is designed to assist you in breathing safely, efficiently, and properly. Among its many functions are:
filter out particles (dust and allergins)
humidity dry inhaled air
produce nitric oxide, which helps widen blood vessels
Mouth breathing, especially at a young age, can dramatically change the development and structure of a child's face. Some of the physical signs include an inability to seal lips, dark circles under the eyes, a long face, an open bite, a high or narrowing palate, or a dramatic change in posture.
Obstructed nasal passages, caused by V-shaped jaws, and long-term mouth breathing in children can lead to:
behavioral issues or misdiagnosis of ADHD
tiredness during the day
memory issues and poor performance in school
hypoxic brain dysfunctions and a lowering of the IQ
anxiety and depression
A child's facial development can also be affected by mouth breathing. A recessive chin or crooked teeth can result, making your child appear altogether different. Mouth breathing also causes a narrow mouth, a misaligned bite, high and narrow dental arches, and much more.
SIGNS OF MOUTH BREATHING
Children who are mouth breathers often breathe faster and in a more audible fashion. Aside from witnessing your child's mouth breathing, there are other signs you can look for that might suggest your child is mouth breathing.
Many children who are mouth breathers during the day, may also have the following symptoms:
Increased crying or bedwetting episodes at night
Waking with a dry mouth or sore throat
Trouble waking up
Problems concentrating at school; brain fog
Being diagnosed with ADHD
Chronic anxiety and allergies
Children who exhibit problems concentrating at school are often misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or hyperactivity.
HOW CAN YOU PREVENT YOUR CHILD FROM SLEEPING WITH THEIR MOUTH OPEN?
According to James Nestor, author of "Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art," how we breathe affects every aspect of our lives...even the density of our bones. This is the reason that proper breathing is so critical for children as they develop.
In the video interview below, James Nestor discusses the importance of proper breathing and shared techniques and treatments to help ensure your child is breathing properly.
As with any medical condition, consult your child's pediatrician should you see any of these symptoms in your child or if you suspect your child is suffering from an airway disorder.