Mouth Breathing: Why It Matters
Let’s say your child has a stuffy nose for a few days and you notice that, understandably enough, he or she is breathing mostly through the mouth rather than through the nostrils. No long-term harm will result from that temporary change.
But if a child breathes through the mouth as a matter of course, week in and week out, cold or no cold, that is a cause for significant concern.
Here’s why. If left untreated, chronic mouth breathing can cause
- abnormally elongated facial development
- crowded, crooked permanent teeth that are prone to decay
- a “gummy” smile (gums more prominent than in the average smile)
- frequent upper respiratory infections
- poor school performance due to sleep deprivation caused by snoring or apnea
- possible erroneous diagnosis of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
- bad breath, chronically chapped lips and abnormally fibrous gums
Mouth breathing almost always has a physiological cause rather than being a “habit.” The most common causes include chronic nasal obstruction, enlarged adenoids and/or tonsils, and allergies. If the underlying cause can be successfully treated, the mouth breathing will likely subside, with no or few permanent effects. If still breathing through the mouth by age 7, your child should see an orthodontist, who may recommend palate expansion to correct misaligned teeth and abnormal facial development. We will help your child by working in conjunction with your other medical professionals, including an ear, nose and throat doctor, an allergist and, of course, an orthodontist.
If you are not sure whether your child is a mouth breather, look for these signs:
- frequently has his or her mouth open at rest, especially while sleeping
- dark circles under the eyes
- subtle changes in facial shape
- tends to be more tired and listless than others the same age
When in doubt, err on the side of caution. Bring your concerns to Dr. Jared and to your pediatrician. Make appointments at KiDDS Dental for evaluations and get your questions answered. Sadly, mouth breathing is often underreported and undertreated. But diligent observation and action can keep your child from suffering any long-term effects from mouth breathing.
Give us a call at 509-891-7070 to schedule today!