It is important you see how your baby or toddler is breathing when they sleep.  Not just if they are breathing, which as a new parent can always wake you up in the middle of the night to check, but how they are breathing.  Infants should exclusively breathe through their noses.  They actually haven’t developed the reflux to breathe through their mouths until they are around 3 to 4 months of age. 

Mouth breathing can be a sign of upper respiratory issues.  It is also an indicator of some sort of airway obstruction.  This could be more than just a cold or a little bit of mucus buildup.  Breathing through your mouth causes your sleep to suffer too.  Sleep deprivation can affect your overall health.  Breathing through your mouth regularly can cause long term health consequences, in overall health or oral health as well.  

Mouth breathing can become a habit if left untreated in the long term.  Which can be a hard habit to break.  It doesn’t allow oxygen to be as efficiently absorbed into the lungs.  Mouth breathing can dry out saliva in your mouth.  Saliva is needed to keep your mouth and teeth healthy.  Breathing through your mouth regularly can lead to gum disease, plaque accumulation, tooth decay, jaw misalignment, and bad breath.  It can also cause obstructive sleep apnea, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, liver problems, depression, infertility, cognitive impairment, and brain abnormalities. 


Causes of Mouth Breathing

The main cause of mouth breathing in children is mucus.  This could be from a cold causing a stuffy nose.  It could also be caused by allergies from the environment.  Allergies could be dust, pollen, or pets

Another cause for mouth breathing is sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea is usually caused by enlarged tonsils or adenoids.  Abnormal cartilage and bone that separates the nostrils, or a deviated septum can also cause trouble breathing through your nose. 

An uncommon cause is polyps or tumors in young children.  Nasal polyps are very common in older adults.  


Symptoms Of Mouth Breathing

Besides physically seeing your child breathe through their mouths you child can have other symptoms that go along with mouth breathing.  Many of the symptoms look very similar to ADHD, which in some cases causes a misdiagnosis.  Many children are diagnosed with ADHD, when really their mouth breathing is the cause of their symptoms.  Symptoms can include trouble concentrating, excessive tiredness, slower than normal growth, difficulty controlling emotions, and oral health problems.  


Health Benefits Of Breathing Through Your Nose

Nose breathing helps your body in many ways.  When you breathe through your nose your body produces Nitric oxide.  Nitric oxide helps support the immune system making your immune system stronger.  When you aren’t breathing through your nose, Nitric oxide isn’t produced, causing your immune system to become weakened. 

Your nose helps humidify the air you are breathing in, which brings the air to a temperature that is easier on your lungs to breathe.  Nose hairs help filter bacteria and irritants, such as dust or allergens.  Nasal secretions contain antibodies, which help fight bacteria that may be trying to get into your body through your nose. 

Breathing through your nose also eliminates problems that can happen with your oral health.  When you breathe through your mouth your tongue doesn’t lay at rest, so you can develop bite problems, or have jaw misalignment issues.  

Usually you can tell if your child is breathing through their mouth.  If it is caused by a sickness you will see other symptoms of a cold, such as nasal drippage or maybe a fever.  If you haven’t noticed your child breathing through your mouth, your dentist will be able to.  


Tips To Eliminate Mouth Breathing

There are a few things you can do to help stop the mouth breathing.  One is to use a bulb syringe when your child has a stuffy nose.  Sucking out the excess mucus before they sleep will help them be able to breathe through their nose easier. 

Another thing you can try when they are sick is a saline wash.  This can help unclog their nose if there is thick mucus stuck.  Sometimes using a saline wash before a bulb syringe works even better. 

Running a humidifier in their room can also help when they are sick. 

If your child has a virus or bacterial infection going to the pediatrician and getting medication to heal those can also help.  Nasal decongestants can also help.  Make sure you get one that works for your child’s age. 

If your child has enlarged tonsils or adenoids, having surgery to remove them can help them be able to breathe more easily.  A tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy is an outpatient procedure that an ENT, ear, nose, and throat surgeon can perform.  The procedure itself takes about thirty minutes, and your child will go home with you that same day. 

Antihistamines can work if your child suffers from allergies, especially ones that also have a decongestant. 

Air filtration in your home can benefit. 

Finding an airway health expert is the best way of treating your child’s mouth breathing.  

Finding the cause of the airway obstruction is key to finding the right treatment that works. 



Breathing through your mouth can become a hard habit to break if you let it go on too long.  It can cause long term health consequences if not caught early enough.  Making sure your child breathes through their nose regularly is important to making sure they get a good night’s rest.  



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