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Is Your Child a Chronic Mouth Breather?
November 3, 2018
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little girl laying on the rug with pencil in hand

Having your child’s chronic mouth breathing checked could help them to avoid problems with their bite in the future. To prevent this and other undesirable outcomes, you should have your child examined if you notice them breathing mostly through the mouth, either while they are resting or when they are awake.

 

Why Mouth Breathing is an Issue

While having an open mouth while your child breathes may seem like a small thing to be concerned over, there are often severe health issues directly related to breathing through the mouth. For some children, an open mouth is merely a habit that happens when they are not focused on keeping their mouth closed. For others, the mouth is open and used for breathing which can lead to serious health effects.

 

Health Effects of Mouth Breathing

An increase in cavities. One of the most common side effects of mouth breathing is an excessively dry mouth. Under normal conditions, saliva continuously washes away harmful bacteria that lead to cavities and tooth decay. If your mouth is dry; however, that bacteria can more readily take hold because a dry mouth is more accessible for cavity-causing bacteria invade.

Teeth and braces. If your child’s mouth is open while they sleep and they are an orthodontic patient, braces will take longer, and the treatment will be much more challenging for your orthodontist to complete. Even more, once your braces are removed, it will be difficult to keep the alignment of the teeth in proper formation, leading to an increased chance of needing braces again in the future.

 

Speech

When children have an open mouth while they breathe, they are more likely to struggle with specific speech sounds as they talk. The most commonly associated speech problem is a lisp, or the inability to say “S” sounds correct. Speech is affected because when you have an open mouth, you also have what is commonly referred to as a tongue thrust swallowing pattern. This type of swallowing pattern causes the tongue to push forward during speaking and swallowing.

 

Facial Growth and Development

In children, mouth breathing can also lead to permanent skeletal deformities because it promotes the growth of the upper jaw, rather than the lower jaw resulting in a large overbite and a gummy smile. A child with an open mouth will very likely grow into an adult with flatter facial features, less prominent cheekbones, a longer face, and a narrower palate.

 

Sleep and Oxygen

Mouth breathing can also cause sleep difficulties, causing someone to wake throughout the night if he or she is not getting enough oxygen. In children, lack of sleep may reduce their ability to pay attention and concentrate at school, which can be mistaken for attention deficit disorder.

Mouth breathing at night, combined with an obstructed airway, are two symptoms directly connected to sleep apnea. When less oxygen can reach the brain, learning and the ability to focus at school becomes an issue for many children. Common symptoms related to a sleep apnea disorder are chronic fatigue, tiredness, and brain fog.

 

Attempting to Change the Habit

The good news is that children (and adults) can learn how to change the habit of mouth breathing and learn to breathe correctly through their nasal passages. Learning how to breathe through the nose instead of the mouth will prevent your child from a slew of serious health issues in adulthood. If you are worried about your child’s breathing or open mouth resting posture, get in touch with Hinsdale Dentistry. Together we can work to form the best course of action for you and your child, and how to get started.

 

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