Julie West BS RDH
Parents take heed; if your child breathes through his mouth instead of his nose, he can have more problems than bad breath!
Mouth-breathing contributes to: sleep disorders, changes in posture, jaw deformity, lowered immune function, gum disease, and tooth decay.
Mouth-breathing causes the jaws to grow in an altered fashion, resulting in long faces, tooth crowding, and an altered head posture. The lower jaw remains too far behind in its growth, producing a small chin, an abnormal bite, and a distorted profile.
Sleep disorders can be caused by the lower jaw and tongue being positioned too far back, constricting the upper airway. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids due to chronic allergies may also constrict the airway to such an extent that normal nasal breathing becomes impossible.
Nasal breathing produces a hormone that regulates normal blood circulation. It also filters, warms and moisturizes the air. The lack of oxygen in mouth breathers, who usually snore at night and struggle for air, weakens the immune system, disrupts deep sleep cycles, and interferes with growth hormone production. Children may be fatigued and less attentive in school due to this disruption in sleep.
Saliva helps to naturally cleanse the tissues of the mouth. Salivary flow is disrupted by mouth-breathing, leaving a dry environment that irritates tissues and leaves them susceptible to infection such as tooth decay, gingivitis, and periodontal disease, as well as contributing to bad breath.
If you notice that your child breathes through his mouth, you can get help before these problems arise.
Typical treatment options include myofunctional therapy to help retrain your child to breathe through their nose and the use of orthodontic appliances to help move the lower jaw forward. The earlier mouth-breathing is addressed, the better the outcomes of treatment will be.
Below is a picture of a patient before and after treatment for mouth-breathing.