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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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:
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?
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.
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.