All Posts Tagged: mouth breathing

You, The Well-Informed Parent: Advocate for Your Children and Teens!

In my last post, it was my intention to pay attention to how your children are sleeping (or not). If YOU are awake much of the night…perhaps you need a screening for a sleep breathing disorder!

A variety of symptoms can present when children/teens don’t get the proper quantity and quality of sleep regularly. Children and teens will typically present with nighttime symptoms of bedwetting, restless sleep (kicking and banging around) or are twisted in the sheets when you go in to wake them. Hyperactivity, trouble focusing on quiet tasks, impaired growth, avoiding dry, chunky, or more difficult to swallow foods may also present.

The lack of parasympathetic sleep (restful and restorative- think “rest and digest” for parasympathetic) has an immediate and long-lasting effect if deep sleep is impaired. Early in growth it is typically the consequence of enlarged adenoids and/or tonsils. It can also be related to being “tongue tied’. This will also affect the types of foods your children will trend away from; dry foods, hard to chew foods. They may swallow without a closed lip seal or “smack” when eating. Myofunctional therapists and speech therapists trained in MFT can evaluate this condition and, once the frenum is released and airway cleared, begin to retrain the brain improper tongue positioning, speech, swallowing, etc.

If the airway isn’t cleared or isn’t developing properly due to those effects, it can be very difficult to “re-train proper swallowing or speech” until the physical barriers are dealt with.

Orthodontic treatment for under-development of the maxilla (upper jaw) may be needed to get the maxilla back towards normal size to allow the tongue and airway to properly function.

Clinical evaluation as well as radiographic of the airway, jaw growth and size, deep tonsils and adenoids and proper nasal/ maxillary growth can clearly show the physicians the medical necessity they are required to provide that “justifies” tonsil/adenoid removal.

As I tell my patients, nothing can stand in the way of a well-informed parent when advocating for their child’s wellbeing.

A list (downloadable PDF) of common signs and symptoms and visuals that parents can look for that will suggest your child or teen has an airway problem are located on our website under the Sleep Breathing Disorders tab.

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Is Your Child Oxygen Deprived? mouth breathing and the ramifications

If you find your child mouth breathing most of the time while sleeping or when sitting quietly, they have been oxygen deprived.

Humans are typically the only “animals” that routinely breathe through the mouth instead of the nose. Watch your pets or animals; unless they just finished a bolt of running, they breathe through the nose, quietly and peacefully.

Sleep has different “stages” that we cascade through during a normal night’s sleep. The 1st three stages are part of “Non-Rem” sleep and progress from initial drowsiness to deeper, restful sleep. REM (or dream-state) sleep is also important for neurocognitive restoration. Our brains and body require that all stages of sleep be attained for optimal health.

Mouth breathing can interfere with these important parts of sleep and may prevent REM sleep from occurring. In adults, you might recall when you wake after having a few adult beverages….you “sleep” but you don’t feel “rested”. That’s because alcohol interferes with some REM sleep stages. Your brain doesn’t get the restoration it requires nor does the rest of your body.

Mouth breathing has a similar effect, especially in kids. It can interfere with REM sleep. Do you dread trying to wake your kids for school? Maybe they aren’t getting all of the stages of sleep necessary during sleep. Is their mouth open when you walk into the bedroom?

If they consistently mouth breathe at night that’s a problem. Proper nasal breathing is critical for growing children, and adults. During early childhood, an inability to nasal breathe can manifest with problems breastfeeding, or bottle feeding, latching, etc. Facial development will be altered in a negative way. The jaws will have unequal growth that can lead to TMJ problems, sleep issues, and brain development.

A longitudinal study (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children) looked at the effects of consistent mouth breathing of 11,000 children under the age of 7 and found a significant connection between SDB (Sleep Disordered Breathing) and ADHD, aggression tendency, anxiety, and other behavioral manifestations.

Most significantly and concerning was the finding that SDB symptoms that are present before age 5 were associated with a 40% greater chance of special education needs by age 8.

**The ability to properly breathe in early childhood sets the course of some neurocognitive abilities, facial growth tendencies and strong pre-dispositions for future TMJ problems. **

In my experience, most physicians aren’t aware of the critical importance of aggressive airway management before age 10 and often shrug off snoring, bedwetting, frequent respiratory illnesses, enlarged tonsils, et. al. that we see most every week in children and teens with TMJ problems manifesting as pain and problems opening the mouth.

A list (downloadable PDF) of common signs and symptoms and visuals that parents can look for that will suggest your child or teen has an airway problem are located on our website under the Sleep Breathing Disorders tab.

Get a TMJ/Sleep trained Dentist to help educate your pediatrician or doctor about early intervention. We are here to help you navigate the details.

Look for more on this topic to come…

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Mouth Breathing vs. Nose Breathing

Have you ever had a coach or a trainer tell you to breathe in through your nose instead of your mouth? There are scientific facts that prove nose breathing is better for you.

Optimal oxygen exchange occurs when we breathe through our nose versus the mouth. You get more than 30% more oxygen with each breath taking a breath through the nose. It also causes the release of “calming” neurochemistry in the brain and body.

It’s interesting that a single, slow nasal breath exposes us to more of the surrounding atmosphere than our skin. It’s estimated that our skin is about 3 square meters if layed out as a sheet- exposed to the air and environment. The volume of “skin” inside the lungs is estimated to be 50-100 square meters if laid out as a sheet. The total surface area of all the little “air sacs” that fit in the lungs is amazing.

Breathing through the nose (instead of the mouth) warms, moistens, and somewhat cleans the air as it swirls through the nasal passages. It’s “cleaner air”.

Mouth breathing doesn’t moisten much, filter, or deliver as much oxygen as a single breathe through the nose.

If you find it hard to breathe through the nose for 10 minutes, practice if throughout the day. It will get easier as the nasal tissues re-adapt to airflow.

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