Mouth breathing can affect children’s smile, teeth, face and airway.  Infants and children naturally breathe through their noses. However, internal and external stressors may often cause them to begin to breathe through their mouths. Many children are developing a bad habit of mouth breathing. But unfortunately, many parents are not aware that habitual mouth breathing can cause changes in the way their child’s face and teeth develop, resulting in crooked teeth, a narrower jaw, a receding chin, and a constriction of the airways in the nose and throat.Braces and pulling teeth will not solve the underlying problem. Pulling teeth leads to smaller jaws and airways. Braces prevent the jaw from growing forward, which also leads to smaller airways. The single most important thing you can do to improve a child’s health is to establish nasal breathing.The five most important factors for the healthy development of the face, teeth and airways are:

1.    Breathing should be in and out through the nose.

2.    At rest, the mouth should be closed with the lips together.

3.    The tongue should rest against the palate.

4.    Only the tongue should be active when swallowing.

5.    Posture should be erect.

The sooner nasal breathing is established, the better. The earlier in life that the bad habit of breathing through the mouth is established, the bigger the risk that the face, teeth and airways will be affected negatively. The development of the face is 90 percent complete by early adolescence. It is, therefore, desirable to establish nasal breathing, correct swallowing, and good posture as early in life as possible.

Also, another thing to be checked is children snoring. Nowadays, children need to be screened not only for their teeth but also for their jaw alignment, mouth breathing habit and  growth of jaws. The dentist plays an important role at various levels. Dentists have a responsibility for evaluating the pediatric patients oral health and the need for interceptive or early pediatric care. Certain conditions if not recognized early or ignored can persist disastrously in adulthood. 

For example: Obstructive sleep apnea. If this is not detected early it could lead to extensive orthodontic treatment, surgeries, crowns, sleep therapy and potentially psychiatric care in later years. Not to forget the effects of sleep apnea on a person’s general health. For eg: blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, etc. Therefore it is necessary to carry out interceptive or early orthodontics. This corrects the problem early and allows the person to achieve normal growth. The dentist should be able to create normal skeletal relationship for the best intraoral volume and airway space, a healthy jaw joint, excellent facial esthetics and a proper solid occlusion or bite.

But the parents have a key role in first spotting the condition. Snoring and mouth breathing are symptoms which should be flagged off to the dentist. Other symptoms could be day time sleepiness, inattentiveness in class, moodiness. A lot of treatment options are available with the dentist before one thinks of C-Pap (Continuous positive airway pressure) and surgeries. Options of interceptive appliances are available. 

Contact your dental health provider for your child to screen for sleep apnea.