Mouth breathing in children is very common and while a kid with open mouth might seem cute, it is not always the case. The parents need to be made aware that a child breathing through the mouth all the time is not normal and it is high time they find a way to manage it.
A little understanding of the effects of the mouth breathing habit on the child's health in general and oral health in particular can be an eye-opener for the parent. For an educated person, there are obvious symptoms, which indicate that the child is a mouth-breather.
These symptoms include:
- Dryness of the lips
- Crowding of the front teeth
- Sleeping with the mouth open
- Recurrent infections of the airways including sinusitis and middle ear infections
- Bad breath
Common causes include:
- Chronic nasal obstruction/congestion because of which the child is not able to get enough oxygen through the nose.
- Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
- Thumb or finger-sucking habit
- Recurrent respiratory infections
Effects of mouth breathing on oral health:
Mouth breathing may seem like a harmless habit, but has serious effects on the oral and dental health of the child. Some of them are discussed below.
- Dry mouth: A constantly open mouth can lead to drying up of the saliva. This in turn leads to reduced effects of saliva including the flushing effect on the bacteria and the food deposits. This leads to increased chances of tooth decay and gum diseases.
- Tooth decay: With reduced saliva, the pH remains acidic for a longer period of time, leading to increased chances of tooth decay.
- Gum diseases: Reduced amounts of saliva also leads to increased gum disease and periodontal disease as the bacteria are not removed and have a conducive environment to act upon.
- Facial development: A mouth breathing child maintains a different posture than a nose breather. This leads to a narrow and long face, flattened nose, smaller nostrils, reduced facial tone, thin upper lip, pouty upper lip, and a small lower jaw.
- Speech: An open mouth causes the tongue to thrust into the palate when talking. This leads to altered pronunciation of some sounds; especially and can cause lisping.
- Braces: Mouth breathing causes multiple challenges including prolonged treatment period, inability to close the gaps, reduced stability of the realigned teeth, and increased chances of relapse. The added complication of increased gum disease and tooth decay makes it worse. The habit needs to be corrected first before going in for braces.
If that sounds like a long list, they are not all inclusive. Early intervention in the habit can correct and negate all these effects. Talk to your dentist to know how to help your mouth breathing child.