Did you know that your child’s development can be negatively affected by the way they sleep? If your child grinds their teeth, snores, or breathes with their mouth open you might think that it is not a big deal, or maybe even “cute” at times. However, if you can see or hear your child breathing, these poor sleeping habits can not only affect your children’s development but lead to further health complications later in life.

Effects of Mouth Breathing in Children

Research has shown that when a child breathes through their mouth instead of their nose, their facial and dental development can be adversely effected. Potential abnormalities include the development of a longer, more narrow face, a less pronounced jaw line, a gummy smile, severely crooked teeth, headaches, sleep deprivation, and temporomandibular disorder (TMD). Mouth breathers experience more interrupted sleep because their brains are telling their body to extend their jaws to allow more room and reopen a collapsed or obstructed airway.

Typically parents seek the advice of their dentist when they notice crooked teeth. However, crooked & crowded teeth are incidental when compared to the more urgent problem: oxygen! The messages sent to your body when you are sleeping with your mouth open can cause you to grind and clench your teeth which disallows a deep stage of sleep which is essential for childhood development. The lack of oxygen being provided to the body as a child can prevent specific hormones from being released and can often impact the bodies growth.

Treatment

It’s important to open the airway as early as possible, so it’s important to consult with Dr. Baier if you believe that your child is suffering from these side effects. It’s not always necessary to wait until all your child’s teeth are in since it is typically best for us to develop the upper jaw and bring the lower jaw forward without necessarily removing any teeth. In combination with tongue exercises, many patients can experience dramatic breathing, cosmetic, and even growth improvement!

They have the symptoms, now what?

There are several signs that are important to be aware of if you suspect that your child may be a mouth breather. He or she will breathe primarily out of their mouth, may have bad breath, can develop dark circles under their eyes, may seem more tired than normal, and can be smaller in size than other children their age. It is important to consult with a specialist as soon as possible if you believe that your child is suffering from these side effects. Take them to their allergist and pediatric ENT but don’t forget to also speak to your dentist about taking part in the treatment so that entire picture can be put together.