Oxygen is vital for the body to survive. A human can survive mere minutes deprived of oxygen, while it can survive longer without its other needed nutrients, water and food. In a healthy functioning body, air is breathed in through the nasal passage. Due to the body’s vital dependence on oxygen, when systems surrounding breath do not function properly, health problems often develop.
Mouth Breathing & Snoring
Mouth breathing and consistent snoring are two obvious signs the body is working hard to get oxygen. They demonstrate that an underlying health malfunction is happening in the body.
Children, like adults, breath through their mouth because their nasal passage is blocked. It comes down to the position of the tongue. Habits like thumb sucking and extensive pacifier use train the tongue (really, this trains the brain to position the tongue) to be out of position, pushing or resting unnaturally. This causes improper face and jaw development and affects the position of the teeth.
Additional causes of mouth breathing include enlarged adenoids, allergies that cause blocked nasal passages, or systemic bodily inflammation, resulting from a diet lacking in nutrients or toxic overload in the body. An upper respiratory infection – your child’s common cold or sinus infection – can cause this as a temporary symptom but this typically will resolve itself as the illness passes.
The most common signs that your child is a mouth breather include:
- Mouth always open
- Bad breath
- Dry mouth
- Teeth grinding
- Frequent illnesses including colds, flu, sinus infections, ear infections, and throat problems
Many kids that are mouth breathers snore while they sleep, providing further evidence that the body is struggling to get oxygen. Your child snoring might be cute, but it is a sign that the body is working to breathe properly and should be checked out to ensure your child does not have an underlying issue.
A Modern Epidemic
As Sandra Kahn and Paul Ehlich discuss in their book Jaws: The Story of A Hidden Epidemic, the issue is common, undiagnosed and widespread:
“Modern industrial societies are plagued by small jaws and crowded ill-aligned teeth, a condition that the dental profession refers to as malocclusion (literally “bad bite”). Malocclusion is often accompanied by mouth breathing. Together, not to mention their negative effects on appearance, the two tend to reduce our quality-of-life and make us more susceptible to disease. And they are increasingly common. William Proffit, Author of the most widely used textbook and orthodontics, the part of dentistry focused on straightening crooked teeth, pointed out the scale of the epidemic in the United States in 1998: “Survey data reveals that about a fifth of the population has significant malocclusion, and irregularity of the incisors (crowding of the front teeth) is severe enough in 15% that both social acceptability and function could be affected. Well over half have at least some degree of orthodontic need.” (emphasis added)
The remedy for mouth breathing and snoring are best addressed early in children, while their face, jaw, and teeth are still developing. If you believe that your child is a mouth breather or a habitual snorer, our office can help with the implementation of myofunctional therapy and orthodontics. Please be sure to mention these signs at your next appointment.