How on top of your child's oral health are you? Believe it or not, neglecting those baby teeth because they will "be replaced by permanent teeth someday" could be causing serious damage.
The consequences of a child's poor oral health go far beyond tooth decay and gum disease. Oral health also encompasses jaw alignment and oral cavity --- both of which can impact a child's ability to breathe properly. Poor oral health, of any kind, affects a child's long-term emotional, mental, and physical well-being.
Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic childhood diseases. By age 2, 10% of all children have had a cavity. That increases to 28% by age 3 and 50% by age 5! If untreated, tooth decay can progress quickly causing teeth to break down.
Mouth breathing (often caused due airway dysfunction) can have long-term impacts on both their oral and long-term health. Mouth breathing causes the mouth to dry out, which in turn, creates a damaging effect on the normal process or your oral cavity. A dry mouth means that saliva cannot perform the role it's meant to in your child's mouth. What is the role of saliva? It's there to protect teeth and gums by neutralizing harmful acids. It also acts as a protective barrier, preventing bacteria from growing in the mouth.
When not prevented or deterred, bacteria can lead to an increase in plaque, tooth decay, and gum disease. Not only will it impact your child's teeth, but if left untreated, it will spread to their tongue and the roof of their mouth.
BENEFITS OF AN AIRWAY-CENTRIC DENTIST ON YOUR CHILD'S ORAL AND OVERALL HEALTH
In addition to focusing on your child's teeth, an airway-centric dentist will monitor and focus care on more complex concerns related to your child's bit, palate, and jaw --- all of which can affect how your child breathes.
An airway dentist will assess the condition of a child's soft tissue, tongue location, the shape of the palate, and jaw alignment. When children are very young, these issues can be caught and treated with minimal effort, which can prevent years of breathing and health issues for a child as they mature into adulthood.
According to Dr. Ben Miraliga, an airway-centric dentist will focus on the foundation first and the teeth second.
It is far more common for children to have an underdeveloped jaw foundation. Although common, this isn't the normal jaw development that we, as humans, once had.
Listen to episode 17 of Airway First and our interview with Dr. Ben Miraglia to hear more about foundation jaw development in children.
MOUTH BREATHING MAY BE COMMON BUT IT'S NOT NORMAL
There is nothing normal or cute about kids who snore. Many children who mouth breathe during the day sleep with their mouths open at night. Why? Sleep relaxes the muscles that support the airways during the day. Consequently, kids who mouth breathe during the day probably snore at night.
Especially at a young age, mouth breathing can change the structure and development of a child's face. There are also physical signs such as an inability to seal lips, dark circles under the eyes, a long face, an open bite, a high or narrowing palate, or a sudden change in posture.
In addition to their facial development, mouth breathing can pose negative threats to a child's long-term health. These changes can have long-term effects on their health by:
Decreasing quality of sleep
Causing poorly functioning auto-immune system
Decreasing brain function and IQ
Impacting speech and swallowing capabilities
Increasing risk for dental complications
Causing small or delayed growth
Causing chronic GI distress, reflux, or ear infections
Lead to emotional instability and depression
A child who breathes through their mouth can suffer from immune system deficiencies, posture problems, difficulty paying attention, mood changes, and even problems with their facial development. A child's mouth breathing can affect their whole body's development, as well as their health throughout their lives.
TOOLS TO HELP FIND A PEDIATRIC AIRWAY-CENTRIC DENTIST
If you are in the US or Canada you can use the Dentist Locator tool from Airway Health Solutions to locate an airway dentist in your area.