WHAT EVERY PARENT NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT MOUTH BREATHING

Updated: Aug 23

Many parents believe mouth breathing is okay, that it won't do any harm, and that most children will outgrow it. Unfortunately, that couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, mouth breathing is a complex health concern that can lead to sleep apnea, speech impediments, and improper facial growth.


mouth breathing, proper breathing

The bottom line is --- if your child is a chronic mouth breather, it's not okay and it's time to change that habit in order to positively impact their long-term health. Learning how to breathe through the nose instead of the mouth as a child, will help your child avoid serious issues in adulthood including sleep apnea, diabetes, obesity, and a slew of other chronic illnesses.


HOW MOUTH BREATHING IMPACTS TEETH


Mouth breathing can impact your child's teeth and jaw. Teeth and the tongue help to form the foundation of the jaw --- impacting the size, shape, and position. When a child is a mouth breather, their tongue does not rest in the natural position of the roof of the mouth. This can cause the jaw to be smaller and the airway to be blocked.


When the tongue isn't in the roof of the mouth, it is unable to push against the palate throughout the day. This can impact the size of the jaw which means teeth won't fit, your child could develop a retruded jaw, and your child's facial growth could be impacted.



In addition to mental and physical fatigue, sleep apnea has a direct correlation to dental health. A child with sleep apnea breathes through their mouth. Mouth breathing results in dry mouth and contributes to tooth decay and plaque. Additionally, gum inflammation and periodontitis are associated with dry mouth.


SERIOUS HEALTH EFFECTS CAUSED BY MOUTH BREATHING


While many may argue that breathing through your mouth provides more oxygen so it's not bad, that's actually not true. It actually causes several serious health issues:

  • Decreasing your child's quality of sleep ---- causing sleep apnea and sleep-disordered breathing

  • Causing poorly functioning auto-immune system

  • Decreasing brain function and lower IQ up to 10 points --- can also be misdiagnosed as having ADHD

  • Impacting speech and swelling capabilities

  • Increasing risk for dental complications

  • Causing anxiety, panic attacks, and aggressive behavior

  • Posture problems and muscle fatigue

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.



oral-facial health, proper breathing

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR CHILD IS A MOUTH BREATHER?


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:

  • Abnormal irritability

  • Increased crying or bedwetting episodes at night

  • Waking with a dry mouth or sore throat

  • Trouble waking up

  • Problems concentrating at school; brain fog

  • Daytime sleepiness

  • Being diagnosed with ADHD

  • Chronic anxiety and allergies


One of the best ways to tell if your child is a mouth breather is to watch them sleep. If they sleep with their mouth open or snore, chances are they are a chronic mouth breathers and have an underlying condition that you want to bring to the attention of your pediatrician or airway-centric dentist.


Airway First Podcast episode

BENEFITS OF NOSE BREATHING


Without a doubt, breathing through your nose instead of your mouth has major benefits. Your nose is designed to process air differently than your mouth. The process is your body's way of keeping you safe and healthy by:

  • Helping to regulate the temperature of the air so that it is at the optimal level when it hits your lungs

  • Filtering out toxins and debris via the cilia, tiny hair-like structures in your nostrils, when the air passes through

  • Humidifying the air as it passes through in order to prevent dry mouth or a sore throat

  • Producing nitric oxide, which improves your lungs’ ability to absorb oxygen


You don't eat with your nose so don't breathe through your mouth. The nose is for breathing and the mouth is for eating. ~ Dr. Kevin Boyd, DDS


What CAN Parents Do to Prevent Mouth Breathing


Now that you are aware of these symptoms, you can look for them in your child. You can get started by doing the following:

  1. Monitor your child for mouth breathing and/or an open mouth resting posture. How often does it occur during the day? Do they sleep with their mouth open and/or snore frequently?

  2. Consider talking to a doctor or dentist who specializes in breathing and sleep. It may even be time to have a sleep study done for you or your child. Your doctor will be able to evaluate your child and decide the best course of action.

  3. Have an evaluation with a myofunctional therapist. A myofunctional therapist will often know other specialists and will be able to point you in the right direction at the very least.


Airway First Podcast episode

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