Developmental Breathing Problems in Children : Recognizing mouth breathing early can help prevent many health concerns, says Dr. Jason Jones.
Sep 30, 2015 07:32PM
● By Dr. Jason Jones
The importance of facial structure in today’s society is unquestionable. Many healthcare providers and the public agree these features are the result of genetics, and therefore unable to be altered. Recently, more studies are showing that environmental factors and muscle dysfunction play a significant role in facial and dental development that may be intercepted and directed toward a specific ideal.
Some of these facial deficiencies stem from the development of dentition, and can be seen as early as 5 years of age. The facial bones are growing rapidly and may show signs of an incorrect bite and misaligned teeth. Habits can also interfere with proper development, as seen in thumb sucking, prolonged pacifier use, tongue thrusting and mouth breathing. A tooth can be moved with as little as 1.8 grams of pressure; however, the tongue can push as much as 500 grams and the lips can press up to 300 grams.
These habits can create an imbalance where the teeth become either splayed out or crowded. The issues may continue throughout the permanent dentition generally, requiring complex orthodontic treatment. It is possible to intervene and treat the source (the myofunctional habits) and to help align the permanent dentition so they can develop into their natural position.
In determining whether a child is experiencing any of these problems, one common, recognizable sign is mouth breathing. It is the primary cause of facial/dental malformations and irregularities that is often overlooked. Ideal breathing at rest should be through the nose.
Mouth breathing occurring during sleep can easily be hidden, but there are other signs to observe, including dark circles under eyes, aka allergic shiners; increasingly long and narrow face; snoring/sleep apnea; poor sleep pattern; chronic fatigue/poorly rested; irritable, inattentive behaviors; thick, fibrotic gum tissue; bad breath (halitosis); frequent incidences of airway infections (ear, sinus, nasopharyngitis, etc.); open mouth posture; and chronically dry lips
Recognizing these problems and treating the cause as early as possible will help decrease or eliminate the chance of having lifelong deficiencies. Any cause of airway obstruction, especially in children, can adversely affect their growth, as well as academic performance. In children, it is easiest to begin as early as 5 years of age, during their development stage, but can be treated up to about 15 years of age. Straightening a sapling is much easier than straightening a mature tree.
Dr. Jason Jones, DMD, is a holistic dentist practicing at Integrative Dental Associates, in Phoenix. For more information, phone 602-956-4807 or visit IntegrativeDental.com.