Is there a right or wrong way of breathing?
What are the long-term consequences of chronic mouth breathing?
If a child develops a mouth breathing habit in the developmental years, it is unknowingly programming its body to have a small, set back jaw, a tiny chin and a long face. This is because bones grow in the position they’re ‘trained to’. If the mouth is open, the entire bone and neuromuscular development follows in suit. Besides aesthetic considerations, the person may later suffer from temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ), meaning their upper and lower jaw do not close in a balanced fashion. With an open mouth the tongue does not rest on the upper palate as it should and hence does not retain teeth in their natural wide shaped arch allowing teeth to crowd. Dental hygiene is often worse with mouth breathing children and adults as the air dries out gums and allows caries causing bacteria to take over.
10 Characteristics of Mouth Breathing
- Small and weak looking jaw
- Forward head posture
- Lip incompetency (unable to seal)
- Small, dysfunctional nostrils
- Recurring blocked nose and sinus infections
- Underdeveloped or set back jaw
- Crowded and crooked teeth
- Poor dental hygiene
- Prone to developing colds
- Audible breathing and snoring
Are there at-home steps parents can take to ensure their child breathes through their nose?
Yes! Bad habits may start early, so gently close baby’s mouth when it is sleeping. Do everything you can to ensure your child does not suck the thumb, clench or grind the teeth. You can also incorporate a technique developed by Dr. K. Buteyko called mouth taping, where surgical paper tape is placed over the mouth while sleeping, ensuring the child is breathing through their nose at night. This should only be necessary for a short while to break a night time mouth breathing habit. There are oromyofacial exercises available on YouTube that will help establish healthy habits. Last but not least, engage with an expert such as an experienced breathing therapist or a myofunctional orofacial therapist for optimal results.
What about the kids who suffer from chronic sinus infections?
Recurring sinus infections are common in mouth-breathers and can impede progress in changing to a nose breathing habit. It is important that the underlying breathing dysfunction is addressed and the child learns a nose clearing exercise that will prevent blocked nose and sinus trouble from occurring. Contact me now for more information.