Is Your Child a “Mouth-Breather”?
Children require adequate amounts of deep sleep for brain development and general growth. If they don’t get this restorative sleep, due to grinding or clenching of the teeth, snoring and/or mouth breathing during naps and overnight, development can be hindered, and behavior and personality can be affected.
How Mouth Breathing Can Hurt Your Child
Although it certainly seems harmless enough, there are several ways that mouth breathing can be problematic:
Mouth Breathing Increases the Risk for Abnormal Facial Bone and Dental Development
Animal and human studies show that the risk is higher in mouth-breathing children to develop a long, narrow face with a receding jaw, crooked teeth, and an increased incidence of both temporomandibular joint disease and headaches. If the jaw and airway are underdeveloped, the airway can become obstructed during sleep, resulting in sleep apnea. This causes the brain to “bounce” in and out of deep sleep in an effort to waken the child just enough to push her jaw forward, which is the body’s way to open the collapsed airway.
Mouth Breathing Can Impact General Development
During the night, human growth hormone (HGH) is released. This hormone is essential for a child’s bones and brain to develop to their fullest potential. When sleep is disrupted, HGH secretion slows or even stops. The result is an increased risk for stunted physical growth and/or brain development. Furthermore, poor sleep has been shown to cause difficulties with memory, retention and cognitive function, which can cause difficulties for children at school. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to hyperactivity and obesity.
How to Help Your Child
- Make sure your child breathes through his nose without restriction, both during the day, during naptime and overnight.
- Be sure to bring your child to us at regular intervals. Pediatric dentists are trained to recognize mouth breathing.
- If your child has allergies, see an allergist for treatment, as allergies can force a child into breathing through the mouth when the nose is congested.
If your child seems to breathe through her mouth, rather than her nose, at naptime, overnight or during the daytime, please contact my office for an evaluation.