Breathing is the process of taking in air into our body where breathing through the nose is normal. Nose breathing ensures that we take in the maximum air into our lungs. This in turn supplies the required amounts of oxygen to the brain cells. However, sometimes, due to an obstruction your airway, you are forced to breathe through your mouth.
Mouth breathing is quite common among children, especially during an attack of common cold. Such mouth breathing is temporary. Unfortunately, due to anatomical/ structural abnormalities mouth breathing can become a permanent feature in your child. How can you then know the difference? What are the signs of mouth breathing in your child? Find out here…………….
Mouth breathing, snoring and restless sleep are all connected and are early warning signs that there is something wrong with your child’s health. Fortunately, mouth breathing can be detected as early as two and a half years and early intervention makes a sea of a difference to your child’s health. You can look for these signs in your child, if you doubt that your child could be a mouth breather.
Your child’s mouth hangs open
In a normal healthy person the lips are closed together in the rest position. If your child’s lips are parted during the day or while watching television, then it is an indication of an airway obstruction abnormality that is making nasal breathing difficult.
Persistent breathing through the mouth can cause cracking at the corners of the mouth, mouth sickness, difficulty in chewing and swallowing. All these happen because of reduced saliva in the mouth.
Persistant bad breath
Again because of reduced saliva in your child’s mouth, the microflora changes leading to gum infection and tooth decay. The natural cleansing action of food debris is lost. Although the ‘morning breath’ is a normal phenomenon, take note if your child has a pronounced morning breath.
Sleeping with a mouth wide open can lead to drooling and chapping. Dryness of lips can force your child to lick their lips reflexively during sleep, worsening the chapping. Snoring in sleep is a common finding.
Irregular bite and crowded teeth
Prolonged mouth breathing can make your child’s jaw narrow with an elongated face. The irregular posture of the lips in mouth breathing can affect the jaws,cheeks and the chin. Crowding of the teeth is another feature you will notice. Since the jaws are narrow there isn’t enough space for the teeth to come into correct positions. Anterior open bite where you will notice a gap between the upper and lower front teeth is common.
Poor facial development
Your child is constantly and rapidly growing. Along with the overall growth, the face is also growing and hence it is important to make sure nothing inhibits this growth. Mouth breathing, when left untreated, lead to small and poorly developed nostrils on a flat or narrow nose, short upper lip and a pouty lower lip.
Forward head position
Your child cannot breathe through the nose, because of the airway obstruction. He may then try to compensate by putting his head forward to open the airway. In the long run the forward head position can cause orthopaedic issues and tension headaches. Although the forward head position can b because of other causes, you have to watch out for this if your child is a mouth breather.
Because of reduced saliva, your child can develop mouth ulcers frequently.
Infections of the airways like colds, sinus or ear infections are quite common and frequent in your child. If your child develops such infections once within every 90 days, then you have to pay attention to the mouth breathing habit.
Lethargy/ sleepiness or hyperactivity
The reduced oxygen supply to the brain in a mouth breather can lead to many developmental issues like sleep deprivation and fatigue, impaired development of the frontal cortex, poor connection within the brain, increased cortisol and adrenalin levels making your child hyperactive, anxious and aggressive and lowered IQ.
What are the risk factors for mouth breathing?
- Use of pacifiers
- Thumb sucking
- Stopping breast feeding before 3 months of age
- Enlarged tonsils
Early detection of mouth breathing and its treatment can rectify the condition. Consult your dentist who will refer your child for the specific corrections.