Mouthbreathing simplified for mums and dads

Mouthbreathing: breathing through the mouth instead of the nose can have major effects on the growth and development of your child’s face. Did you know it can also affect your child’s overall health, their school results and how they behave? Read on to find out how.

How do we breathe?

Our nose is designed for breathing and smelling. Our noses are also responsible for warming and humidifying the air and trapping particles. This is an evolutionary advantage for humans because our sense of smell can warn us of danger and the little hairs in our nose (cilia) trap particles and stop them from entering our lungs. For some people however, they cannot breathe through their nose properly and so they start breathing through their mouth. This may be something you have experienced before – I know I certainly have when I get bouts of sinusitis.

What causes mouthbreathing?

Here are the top 5 causes of mouthbreathing:

  1. Allergies such as hayfever, dairy and dustmites
    • this causes the inside surfaces of the nose to swell up and so less air can come through the nose
  2. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids
    • these structures act to filter out bacteria and viruses from the mouth and nose
  3. Deviated septum
    • this usually narrows one side of the nose so less air can come through that side
  4. Polyps in the nose
    • this is an abnormal growth of tissue which can block the inside of the nose
  5. Having ongoing sinus infections (sinusitis) or colds

Why is mouthbreathing in children bad?

When a child cannot breathe properly at night, their quality of sleep is very poor. A poor quality of sleep is linked to delayed growth and development, a drop in their marks at school and some even become diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other behavioural disorders. The reason why I am writing this blog is because if mouthbreathing is recognised, diagnosed and treated early, many kids can lead healthier lives, do better at school, develop and grow into their full potential, avoid braces and behavioural therapy.

How mouthbreathing changes your face

From my perspective, it is important to recognise kids who snore or grind their teeth at night because the way they use their muscles when mouthbreathing ends up changing their whole face. What do I mean by this? Well, the arches of their upper and lower jaws and the position of their teeth become altered by these muscles. This in turn influences where their lips and tongue will sit. These changes become permanent if the cause of the mouthbreathing is not addressed. Since mouthbreathing also affects the position of the jaws and teeth, your child’s chewing patterns are also affected. They are also at a higher risk of developing holes in their teeth, gum problems and bad breath. Lastly, from your side of things, tackling mouthbreathing early on in your child’s life can save you from having to do expensive orthodontic work in their teens.

How I tackle mouthbreathing in my clinic

As a dentist, I know how important it is to look in and outside of the mouth for clues when diagnosing a condition. Here’s what I’m looking for:

  • long, narrow face
  • tongue tie
  • tongue thrust
  • narrow and high arched palate
  • dry lips
  • dry mouth
  • open lips at rest
  • teeth wear
  • crooked teeth
  • narrow upper jaw
  • tonsils size
  • the child’s ability to breathe through their mouth

I also ask and find out whether your child sleeps with their mouth open or closed, whether they suffer from asthma/allergy problems, they are always tired/sleepy or have any learning difficulties. I have written more blogs on mouthbreathing with links to important papers and websites, see Kids Habits: mouth breathing as a start.

Does your child need to be screened for mouthbreathing?

At Riverstone Family Dental we spend the time to thoroughly check your child’s mouth and facial features. We work closely with GPs, ENTs, orthodontists and speech pathologists to help resolve the cause of mouthbreathing.

Call me on 8678 3538 and my team can book you in for a consultation today.

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