“Your child is a mouth breather.”
For some parents, hearing these words leads to many questions.
What does that even mean?
Isn’t that normal?
What’s the issue here?
Mouth breathing is when one breathes through the mouth instead of the normal process of breathing through the nose.
No, it’s not normal, but it does happen in special circumstances.
Think about the last time you had a cold and a blocked nose, and therefore struggled to breathe “normally” through your nose.
Or just the other day at the gym, where you worked up a sweat on the treadmill and began huffing and puffing through your mouth.
But these are not normal circumstances. Mouth breathing in children can lead to a number of issues. Read on to learn just what these are…
What causes mouth breathing?
As we have mentioned, mouth breathing is not normal, but there are a couple of reasons why children do it.
There are some children who might do it out of habit. In some cases though, it could be because of a birth defect like a deviated septum or any airway obstruction that makes breathing through their mouth feel more comfortable.
Whatever the cause of this problem is, it needs to be addressed as soon as possible. This is especially true in children.
How do I determine if my child has a mouth breathing problem?
Before we get into the health risks associated with mouth breathing, let’s first explain how you can determine a problem. Be aware and look out for the following systems:
- Crowded teeth
- Red or inflamed gums
- Dry mouth and lips
- Cold symptoms or sore throat
- Digestive problems
- Poor sleep or snoring
- Morning headaches
- Bad breath
- Frequent airway infection
If you observe these signs and symptoms but cannot pinpoint a cause, try monitoring your child and observe how often in a day they breathe using their mouth.
Also monitor children to see if they maintain a ‘resting’ open mouth.
What are the health risks associated with mouth breathing children?
If mouth breathing is left untreated, it can cause major health and development problems for your child. These problems may pose some complications as they grow.
Facial growth and development
Mouth breathing problems in children can affect the way they grow.
If left untreated, a child who has the problem will most likely have flatter facial features. Their cheekbones may be less prominent and they will have a longer face. Their eyes might be droopier and they will have lower facial muscle tone. Treating the problem early can address these potential facial growth problems.
Another problem that a child with mouth breathing problems might have is with their speech.
They are more likely to struggle with certain speech sounds. One of the most commonly associated speech problems with mouth breathing is a lisp or the inability to say “S” sounds correctly. The child’s speech is affected because of what is referred to as a “tongue thrust swallowing pattern”.
When this pattern occurs, it causes the tongue to protrude, or push forward during speaking (and swallowing).
Sleep apnoea and snoring
Most mouth breathing issues stem from nasal obstruction issues, which may lead to sleep issues like sleep apnoea and snoring.
These sleep issues can cause disturbances in our sleeping pattern and can affect our general well-being.
Due to these sleep issues, people with mouth breathing issues can also then develop headaches, fatigue, and other problems that affect concentration, growth, and mood.
Dry mouth and dental problems
Another common issue that comes with having mouth breathing problems in both children and adult is the excessive drying of the mouth.
When your mouth is dry, the saliva that’s supposed to wash away food debris (and thus reduce plaque) is missing.
Without sufficient saliva, due to mouth breathing, you’re likely to develop short- and long-term dental problems including severe tooth decay and gum disease.
Can a dentist help with mouth breathing problems?
As we have mentioned before, dentists are equipped to assess the signs and symptoms of mouth breathers, thus getting to the root of the problem quicker.
No matter how old your children are, you have to make sure that their oral health is closely monitored by your family dentist. Dental check-ups will not only determine if there are issues with your children’s teeth but they can also help determine any other underlying health issues.
If you’re looking for an experienced dentist for you and your children, Dental Care Group is here for you!
Our new state-of-the-art clinic in Armadale will cater to your entire family’s dental needs. Book your first appointment with the Dental Care Group team today!