So I went to the Dentist and they told me I mouth breath, I know it’s not great but what now?
In this article, we look at treatment options for those that suffer from, or for someone you may know, who suffers from mouth breathing.
As dental professionals, we try to correct mouth breathing in children with a little more push in the hope that we can prevent all of the possible developmental problems that can occur in the long term. Like everything, it’s better if we catch it early and correct the problem. In adults, we correct mouth breathing in the hope to stem or lessen the fallout from the resulting changes in physiological development. We’ll explore adult treatments in a future article but at the moment let’s focus on children.
In children, we hope to pick up mouth breathing early, (under 6 years old) and in particular mouth breathing combined with persistent snoring (snoring 4-5 nights a week). Before we start treatment, these children will usually be referred for screening by an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist. They’ll ensure there aren't any obstructions (tonsils and adenoids) that are contributing to the snoring and mouth breathing and also assess for possible childhood sleep apnoea. In some instances where there may be obstructions, the ENT will guide you through the options available for your child.
By far the most common reason for mouth breathing, aside from childhood allergies and hayfever like symptoms, is enlarged tonsils and adenoid obstructions. In many instances, if a child who suffers mouth breathing and snoring as a result of enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids is treated early, both the mouth breathing and snoring spontaneously improve without further treatment. However, in those instances where tonsils and adenoids are only part of the problem further non-invasive treatment options may be required.
Once we have the ok from the ENT specialist we can then start a form of therapy known as Myofunctional Therapy. This is a form of non-invasive treatment that aims to train and correct mouth breathers to become nasal breathers. Myofunctional Therapy also aims to rebalance the forces of the muscles of the face on the developing jawbones and teeth. This therapy consists of simple exercises in combination with a Myofunctional trainer mouthguard which is specifically designed to help reduce the forces of the lips, cheeks and tongue on the teeth whilst improving your child's lip seal creating an ideal environment for correct nasal breathing, dental growth and facial development.
Another option for children is Buteyko breathing. This non-invasive and simple training is perfect for all ages. It involves no fancy gadgets and helps train the individual not only to nasal breath but to improve the speed of breath along with volume of breathing. All great things to improve the physiological systems and cardiovascular performance. It is utilised for many different reasons from sleep apnoea through to exercise performance and training. You can find out more at https://buteyko.info. Handy tip, there are also apps available to help with this type of therapy making it extremely accessible.
Finally, it is important to review your child's diet and environment. It’s possible there may be some intolerances that can contribute to an inflammatory style reaction resulting in increased nasal mucus production. This can contribute to nasal congestion and result in mouth breathing. This can be a tedious process of trial and error to try and identify the culprit but can save you significant time and money trying to correct mouth breathing in the future. If you are having trouble identifying the culprits an allergist may be a great place to start.
The dental fallout from mouth breathing will likely result in significant dental problems as your child grows so the quicker we can identify and implement an approach to correcting mouth breathing, the simpler the process can be down the track. Parent-to-parent, please do not overlook a child that mouth breathes and snores routinely whilst sleeping. It is paramount to have your child reviewed by an ENT specialist. Feel free to contact the surgery for a chat if you have any questions about anything discussed in this article.
Article Written by Jason Alfrey
Jason is a Consulting Oral Health Therapist at Channon Lawrence Dental. He has practiced in the region for 15 years. Jason provides general dental care to all ages with specific interests in children’s dentistry, Minimal Intervention Dentistry, Periodontal Care (Gum Care) and management of the ageing dentition.