In our post, “How Mouth Breathing Affects a Child’s Facial Structure And More”, Biological Dentist and SafBaby Expert. Dr. Raymond Silkman discussed the often overlooked topic of mouth breathing. He described why normal breathing (breathing through the nose) is essential for overall health and what happens to a child’s body and mind when they breathe through their mouth instead.
Briefly, mouth breathing can cause chronically dry lips, mouth and teeth, which increases the propensity for cavities. Mouth breathing also often leads to crooked teeth, an underdeveloped jaw, poor development of the face, structural changes in the body and less energy and ability to concentrate due to less oxygenation.
Today’s post by Dr. Silkman focuses on the causes, how to spot mouth breathing and what to do to retrain the body to breathe normally.
What Causes Mouth Breathing?
Anything that impedes breathing through the nose for an extended period of time can lead to mouth breathing. For example, food and environmental allergies or frequent colds will cause a stuffy, runny or plugged nose and compel a child to breathe through their mouth.
Other factors that can lead to mouth breathing are:
- enlarged tonsils and adenoids;
- tongue-tied syndrome (i.e. having a tight lingual frenum);
- when the body is in a constant sympathetic (fight or flight) state which is often triggered by a trauma;
- not being breastfed. A newborn who breastfeeds uses a tongue-thrusting action to express milk. Without this action the maxillae (upper jaw, nose and eye socket area) may not develop properly;
- excessive and prolonged use of pacifiers. This causes the tongue to be placed in a lower position toward the jaw which encourages mouth breathing.
Signs That Indicate Your Child May be a Mouth Breather
Most parents are not aware of whether their child is breathing through their nose or mouth. The following signs will help you identify if they may be breathing through their mouth.
Chronically dry lips
Dark circles under the eyes
Mouth usually open
Drooling and/or pillows are found wet in the morning
Breathing is audible – loud or labored
Neck and/or head extends forward
Neck and/or shoulder pain
Breath taken less than every 6 seconds
Frequent colds and coughs
Asthma and/or other respiratory ailments
Chin dimple (as in the picture below).
Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
Bed wetting after being out of diapers
General restlessness and poor mood
Narrow nasal development with pinched nostril size (see pictures below)
How to Retrain the Body to Breathe Through the Nose
If you suspect your child is a mouth breather, seek out one of the following professionals:
1. A dentist or other medical professional with extensive experience treating mouth breathing. Once the causes, including any underlying allergies, have been eliminated, then the body can be retrained to breathe normally. Under the care of a dentist, functional oral/orthodontic appliances can be used to help develop the dental arches and bring normal tongue position and breathing posture back to the body.
Note: Because very few dentists have experience with understanding and treating mouth breathing, you may have to reach out to someone in another city to get proper care.
2. A myofunctional therapist. These therapists provide one-on-one training to correct the abnormal function of the tongue and facial muscles used at rest (for chewing and for swallowing) and to correct open mouth postures as a result of mouth breathing. Often, they work in conjunction with a dentist to provide further support. There is a directory search by zip code available here or a list by state and country here.
There are also self-help options. One of these is the Buteyko Method. The Buteyko Method is a breathing technique that helps manage any breathing-related problems. You can either attend a workshop by a qualified Buteyko instructor or purchase a DVD set designed for kids that also offers email access to a Buteyko practitioner to answer any questions.
Another option is to try the MYO Munchee. This simple appliance can be used with young children to help in the development of jaw, palate and facial structure. By using it for as little as 5-10 minutes a day, it can help improve facial muscles.
When Is It Best to Start to Address the Issue?
Because mouth breathing can have such serious consequences, it is best to address the issue as soon as possible. The ages between 4 and 9 are ideal. Studies show that by age 4, sixty percent of the craniofacial development is complete and by age 9, ninety percent. By around 18, the jaw has finished developing.
If jaw development is especially poor, appliances may be used at an early age. Otherwise, it is preferable to wait until the molars come in so that the appliances have something to hold on to.
Mouth breathing can have far-reaching consequences but it can be corrected especially when caught early. Make sure to be watchful of any signs and take your child to a dentist who has experience addressing mouth breathing. Early intervention is the key to eliminating lifelong problems from mouth breathing.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally posted in June 2016.
About SafBaby’s Expert in Dental and Oral Care:
Biological Dentist Dr. Raymond Silkman
Dr. Raymond Silkman has been providing holistic dental care to families for 25 years. His approach considers the interrelationships and influences of body structures, organs and systems as well as the overall nutritional and emotional health of each patient. These typically reveal the underlying causes of dental issues such as decay, periodontal disease, dental crowding and more. His incorporation of alternative health modalities has helped patients bring about profound changes in their well-being.
Dr. Silkman’s protocols also include safe removal and detoxification of toxic dental materials, conservative approaches to restorations, functional jaw orthopedics for proper jaw development and care for TMJ and orofacial pain.
Through nationwide lectures and his writings, Dr. Silkman educates about how prevention far outweighs the cure. He especially encourages mothers to be aware of the critical importance of nutrition during preconception and pregnancy which is when the foundation is laid for a child’s entire lifetime.
Dr. Silkman’s practice is based in Brentwood, California.