Can chronic mouth breathing change your child’s development?
Ever taken notice if your child is breathing through their mouth or through their nose? Answering a question so basic can make a world of a difference to your child’s development.
The cranio-facial complex, which includes the cranial base, facial bones and your maxilla and mandible (the jaws that hold your upper and lower teeth) are part of a dynamic complex, with certain aspects continuing to develop until the age of eighteen. The complex also works intimately with the upper airway which connects the nose and mouth passages leading to your lungs.
So how does your child breathing through their mouth possibly change their development?
Abnormal forces introduced to the normal developmental process of your cranio-facial complex can have a large influence. There has been vast amount of research regarding the relationship between mouth breathing and development of the jaws. Research has found the following developmental characteristics that may form in chronic mouth breathers [1 2 3 4].
- Narrow and constricted upper jaw formation
- Dental malocclusion (crowding)
- Proclined/protruding upper incisors
- Possibility of formation of an open bite (lack of contact between upper and lower teeth)
- Inability to close lips together
- Increase is face height (longer faces)
- High angle of the mandible (longer faces)
- Convex profile (where lower jaw is significantly behind development of upper jaw)
- Let’s try an easy exercise for you to understand how the forces and muscles work to lead to these abnormal craniofacial and dental developments.
Breathe independently through your nose. You will notice for you to do this, you will have your lips together, and your tongue will be resting on your palate. Nasal breathing allows for optimal tongue posture, which will naturally expand and allow the top jaw to grow to its full potential. Your muscles are working in harmony and your lower jaw will expand as the top jaw expands.
Now change your breathing to mouth breathing. In order for this to happen, notice where your tongue is sitting now? It is no longer sitting on the roof of your mouth, it has dropped, and is no longer exerting the expansive force on your top jaw. The lack of the force from the tongue in a growing individual will result in development of a narrow upper jaw and a high and constricted palate. The lower jaw will no longer rotate in the right direction and will not expand to its full potential due to the deficient upper jaw. All of a sudden, you are creating a skeletal and muscular misbalance.
Something so simple can make such a difference.
So why may your child be breathing through their mouth?
A study conducted in Brazil, and published in The Journal of Paediatrics5 found the most common reasons why children may favour breathing through their mouth. The most common being allergic rhinitis, followed by enlarged adenoids, enlarged tonsils, and finally obstructive deviation of the nasal septum.
All these causes result in the body favouring mouth breathing due to some form of obstruction in the upper airway tract.
How do you know if your child is a chronic mouth breather?
There are obvious signs of mouth breathing if they are posturing their mouth open for long periods of time, but there can be some less obvious signs that your child may be a mouth breather. These include:
- Sleeping with their mouth open
- Snoring or grinding whilst sleeping
- Drooling on the pillow
- Nocturnal sleep problems or agitated sleep
- Nasal obstruction/difficulty breathing through their nose
- Irritability during the day
How can we help?
Our team at Grandstand Dental Care take a very comprehensive and holistic approach to our patient’s wellbeing and health. We are continuously working with other health professionals such as General practitioners, Ear nose and throat surgeons, respiratory physicians and paediatric clinicians to provide a team-approach for our patients.
Your child’s general and dental development is important to us. Regular visits with your children will ensure we can monitor their development, and address any concerns we may have. If you would like any further advice regarding your child’s airway, mouth breathing tendency and their development, we welcome you to come see our team!
1. Jefferson Y (2010), Mouth breathing: adverse effects on facial growth, health, academics, and behavior, Journal of Academy of General Dentistry, 58: 79 – 80
2. Harari D1, Redlich M, Miri S, Hamud T, Gross M (2010), The effect of mouth breathing versus nasal breathing on dentofacial and craniofacial development in orthodontic patients, Laryngoscope, 120: 2089-93
3. Bahija Basheer, K Sundeep Hegde, Sham S Bhat, Dilshad Umar, and Kusai Baroudi (2014),
Influence of Mouth Breathing on the Dentofacial Growth of Children: A Cephalometric Study, International Journal of Oral Health, 6: 50-55
4. Moffatt, JB (1963) – Habits and their relation to malocclusion, Australian Dental Journal, 142 – 149
5. Abreu RR, Rocha RL, Lamounier JA, Guerra AF (2008), Etiology, clinical manifestations and concurrent findings in mouth-breathing children, Journal of Paediatrics, 84: 529-35