All babies and children breathe through their mouth instead of their nose from time to time. It happens naturally when they have a cold or allergies, or if they just cried, and are a bit congested. But if you notice your infant or young child frequently mouth breathing, awake or asleep, find out why. It may simply be a habit to break, or could be the sign of other issues, which can lead to sleep disorders.
If your child chews with their mouth open, drools, slumps their shoulders, has dry or swollen lips, or dark circles under the eyes, they may have an issue preventing them from breathing properly through their nose. This needs to be addressed right away.
As an orthodontist, I specialize in oral facial development and sleep disorders due to narrow airways. I encourage parents of my patients to notice their child’s breathing awake and asleep. I’m able to spot a child with a sleep issue the moment I meet them. I see it and treat it every day. I recommend the book Sleep-Wrecked Kids by Sharon Moore, as she lays out the hows and whys that good sleep is absolutely critical to a child’s physical, mental, and emotional development.
It’s possible that your baby’s or child’s mouth breathing is simply coming from the position they’re in or a habit they got into. If you see your child sleeping with their mouth open, gently close their mouth and if needed, adjust their head position a bit so the mouth stays closed. Then watch to see if they breathe normally through their nose. When awake, and you notice mouth breathing, ask them to try to breathe through their nose. Let them know that the nose is a much better way to get air than their mouth. If they revert back to their mouth, there may be a reason.
Why is it so important to nose breathe? The brain gets more oxygen with nose breathing. The nose acts as a natural filter and humidifier. It leaves the mouth and tongue free to do their jobs, forming proper oral facial development. It allows a full deep sleep cycle for restorative regenerative sleep. And, it actually reduces stress.
If you’re noticing your child mouth breathing, please don’t assume it’s just a phase (unless they have a cold). This is the time to get it checked out and treated if necessary. Contact us today to learn more and schedule an appointment at the location that is most convenient for you.