Are You or Your Child a Mouth Breather?

By: Brian J. Hockel, DDS


As the weather cools down and the furnace kicks in at night, more congestion happens and both children and adults have a greater tendency to mouth breathe.

For some, mouth breathing (rather than nasal breathing) is more than a seasonal problem – it happens all the time! Mouth breathing has been associated with both health and learning problems including ADHD. A child who consistently breathes through his mouth is unable to maintain correct oral rest posture: “lips together, teeth together, tongue to the roof of the mouth.” And we know that correct oral rest posture is essential to the proper development of the structure of the mouth, which in turn is key to maintaining an adequate airway over a lifetime and minimizing the risk of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). In many adult cases, it all stems back to mouth breathing as a child!

But what can a parent do about this? Well, the first step is recognizing mouth breathing in your child. Constant congestion may be due to allergens in his environment, or perhaps there is a structural problem with the nasal cavity which prevents successful nasal breathing. Getting a full diagnosis and comprehensive treatment as early as possible can drastically change a child’s health, growth and development, and improve learning.

Sometimes the solution to mouth breathing is very straightforward: have your ENT check for obstruction, or ask your primary care physician to have your child tested for allergies. But if there is a structural problem like a very narrow palate preventing the tongue from staying in its proper place up against the roof of the mouth, we can definitely help! And the sooner this is addressed, the better the outcome. Some very effective treatment possibilities can ONLY be done when the child’s jaws are still growing, so do not procrastinate; call our office to schedule an initial assessment.

Now, you are likely asking, what happens if an adult is a mouth breather? Fear not! We can help you as well as your child. Possible treatments for an adult would address the same questions: identifying any congestion causes, any structural problems, etc. We also partner with a team of Myofunctional Therapists who are like “personal trainers” for the muscles of your tongue, lips, and cheeks. That way, once any congestion is minimized and the structure of the mouth and jaws is optimized, the great results can be maintained with the help of the strong muscular forces of correct oral rest posture!

Here at Life Dental & Orthodontics, the home of “Airway-Friendly Smiles,” our focus is always on treating the mouth, teeth, and jaws while being aware of how we are affecting the airway. We can also help spot problems like mouth breathing, grinding of teeth, scalloped tongue, and daytime sleepiness, which all point to possible airway issues. We are very experienced in coordinating whatever treatment providers you or your child will need. If you have any mouth breathers among your family or friends, send them to us for a complimentary initial assessment and advice!

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.