What should you know about mouth breathing in children?

You set reminders for meetings, credit card payments, get-togethers with friends and almost every other event or activity in your life. But have you anytime thought that you need to set a reminder to breathe as many times in a day……..Sounds funny isn’t it?

Breathing is involuntary. Most of you are not even aware of this round the clock activity that is happening in your bodies. And more so in your sleep!!!!

Why should you breathe through your nose?

You use your nose and mouth to breathe. Nose breathing is the recommended route. Nose produces nitric acid.

Nitric acid

  • increases the ability of the lungs to absorb oxygen
  • increases transport oxygen throughout the body including the heart
  • allows the blood vessels to dilate(expand)
  • Helps the immune system to fight infections

What are the advantages of nose breathing?

Nose breathing has the following advantages

  • The nose acts as a filter and traps fin air particles, including pollen
  • The nose adds moisture to the inhaled air
  • The nose warms up cold air before passing it to the lungs
  • Nose breathing adds resistance to the air stream. The increases the oxygen uptake by maintaining the elasticity of the lungs.

 

What are the reasons for mouth breathing?

Although nose breathing is the best and the preferred system, you may have to adapt to mouth breathing at times. A blocked nose due to cold or an allergic reaction, sinusitis or during strenuous exercise, when mouth breathing provides oxygen to our muscles faster could be times when you adapt to mouth breathing. When mouth breathing becomes chronic, then its a matter of concern. Several anatomical, physiological and pathological factors cause obstruction of the airway passages and contribute to mouth breathing.

This obstruction can be due to

  • nasal congestion caused by allergies, a cold, or a sinus infection
  • enlarged adenoids
  • enlarged tonsils
  • deviated septum
  • nasal polyps, or harmless growths of tissue in the lining of your nose
  • enlarged turbinates
  • the shape of the nose
  • the shape and size of the jaw
  • obstructive sleep apnea, a medical condition in which breathing stops involuntarily for brief periods of time during sleep
  • tumors (rare)

What are the signs of mouth breathing in children?

However, mouth breathing in children may be a matter of concern. Children may restore to mouth breathing due to an obstruction in the air passage. And most children don’t know to report a blocked nose. You can look for the following signs and symptoms for any mouth breathing in your children.

  • bad breath (halitosis)
  • tooth decay, gum infection or mouth ulcers
  • throat and ear infections
  • long, narrow faces
  • open mouths with lips apart in sleep or in the daytime
  • gummy smile
  • gap between the upper and lower front teeth ( anterior open bite )and crowded teeth
  • poor posture
  • poor growth
  • loss of appetite
  • poor academic performance
  • inability to concentrate and headaches
  • disturbed sleep
  • dry lips and dry mouth
  • snoring in sleep
  • loss of hearing in severe and repeated ear infections

What should I do if my child is a mouth breather?

If you suspect your child to be a mouth breather, then make an appointment with your doctor. You may be referred to a specialist like an ENT or a dentist. Your dentist will examine your child for the signs of mouth breathing and conduct a few tests. A mouth mirror test is the simplest test to confirm mouth breathing. Your dentist will place a mouth mirror under the nostrils and the mouth of your child. The mouth breathing is confirmed if the mouth mirror fogs when placed near the mouth.

If your dentist feels the mouth breathing is habitual or temporary due to cold or nasal allergic infection he may recommend the following treatment

  • Nasal decongestants
  • Antihistamins
  • Over the counter steroid nasal sprays
  • Mouth and tongue exercises
  • Mouth guard or trainer to correct occlusion

If you dentist deduces that the cause of mouth breathing is due to anatomical defects or obstruction like an enlarged adenoids or tonsils, then he may refer your child to an ENT. Some x-rays like the lateral cephelogram and OPG will help your specialist confirm the diagnosis. Removal of the enlarged adenoids or tonsils improves the mouth breathing condition of your child to a great extent. If the habit persists post surgery as habitual, your dentist may recommend a trainer to correct the habit. This myofunctional appliance will also rectify any developing occlusal abnormalities.

If the cause is a deviated septum, a palate deformity or the position of the tongue in a small mouth, it’s possible to correct these issues with early intervention and therapy. Children’s faces are still growing, which means that their oral and dental development can be corrected with the help of a good therapist, who understands the role facial growth plays in affecting breathing and sleep.

 

How can I prevent mouth breathing?

Mouth breathing due to allergies or respiratory infections can be prevented. These preventive measures include

  • using a saline mist during long flights or cruises
  • using saline nasal mists and sprays and nasal decongestants or allergy reliever medications at the first sign of allergy or cold symptoms
  • sleeping on your back with your head elevated to open up the airways and promote nasal breathing
  • keeping your house clean and free of allergens
  • installing air filters in your heat and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to prevent the spread of allergens in your house
  • consciously practicing breathing through your nose during the day to help force yourself into a habit of nose breathing

Practice of yoga, meditation and pranayama ( breathing techniques) is beneficial to those who have stress related mouth breathing habit. These yoga techniques focus towards nose breathing.