Mouth Breathing

Most parents are not aware that mouth breathing is a problem or that we are born designed to breathe through our nose. You may have heard the term, habitual mouth breather and be surprised to hear eighty percent of children who breathe through their mouth have some form of obstruction.

It is normal for a child to breathe through their mouth when they have a cold however mouth breathing everyday can lead to abnormal facial growth and development issues and tooth crowding and this can lead to poor sleep and reduced airway space.

Mouth breathing is linked to the following:

  • Poor sleep
  • Abnormal craniofacial growth (long narrow faces)
  • Behavioural difficulties
  • Learning difficulties
  • Poor concentration
  • Hyperactivity
  • ADHD-type behaviour
  • Anxiety

The most common causes for children mouth breathing include:

  • Enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Tonsils and adenoids are lymphatic tissue and the body’s first line of defence and filter bacteria and virus that enter the body through the mouth or nose.  At times they become more of a liability than an asset and can cause airway obstruction or repeated infections. Enlarged tonsils may also interfere with swallowing.
  • Allergic rhinitis (more commonly known as hayfever) affects 19.6% of the Australian population. The most common allergens are dust mites, pollens, moulds and animal hair. Allergic rhinitis can cause a runny or itchy nose, sneezing or itchy or watery eyes. Children with allergies may rub their nose or and eyes a lot.
  • Deviated septum. The cartilage and bone that divide the nose in half is off centred or crocked. This can occur during growth and can often be seen in people with a high vaulted palate. In some cases, babies can be born with a deviated septum.  

It is important to know that correcting the above does not automatically make your child a nose breather. Often further training and exercises are needed. Mouth breathing alters our muscles. Children who mouth breathe tend to have weaker lip muscles and their tongue rest in the floor of their mouth instead of the roof. It is easier to keep your lips closed when your tongue is resting on the roof of your mouth. For children who mouth breathe this is not easy to do.

Orofacial Myologists assess for mouth breathing symptoms and work closely with other specialists to treat mouth breathing and associated issues.

Signs your child may be a mouth breather:

  • Dry lips
  • Open mouth posture
  • High, vaulted palate
  • Dry mouth
  • Increasingly long narrow face
  • Crowded teeth
  • No spacing between baby teeth
  • Dark circles under the eyes (Venus Pooling)
  • Poor body posture (forward head and shoulders)
  • Increased levels of dental plaque, inflamed gums and tooth decay

Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB)

Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB) is a general term for breathing difficulties during sleep. These can range from snoring to obstructive sleep apnoea.

Approximately 10% of children snore regularly and 2 to 4% have OSA.

You may think snoring is not a problem or even cute however it can be associated with serious health issues. Nose breathing should be quiet. If your child’s breathing is heavy or noisy this can be a sign of airway issues.   

Recent studies indicate that mild SDB or snoring may cause many of the same problems as obstructive sleep apnoea in children.

Childhood SDB can be associated with the following:

  • Behaviour problems
  • Learning and memory difficulties
  • Poor concentration
  • Mood swings
  • Bed wetting
  • Slow growth
  • Abnormal craniofacial growth and development (long narrow faces)
  • Hyperactivity
  • ADHD type behaviour

Here at OM Health we work with other specialist to ensure our treatment enhances their work. With treating sleep issues specialists may include an ENT, Sleep Physician and / or Allergist.

Rochelle is highly experienced in treating mouth breathing and children with sleep disordered breathing. Make an appointment to discuss your child’s breathing and sleep and options for treatment.