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Snoring and Mouth Breathing Are Red Flags

Snoring and Mouth Breathing
Victoria Bermudez

Victoria Bermudez

One of the questions I ask every single client I work with is “does your child snore or mouth breathe?” I know this may sound a little dramatic, but snoring and mouth breathing are huge red flags. Many parents don’t know this so they don’t think to talk about it with the pediatrician.

Snoring and mouth breathing is a concern because your mouth is meant to rest in a very specific position:

  • Your lips closed
  • Your tongue resting gently on the roof of your mouth
  • Teeth slightly parted
  • Your jaw and teeth relaxed.

We are supposed to silently breathe through our noses when we sleep. In fact, we are meant to breathe through our noses most of the time.

Of course, colds happen, and sick kiddo is likely to snore or breathe through their mouth – we all do it. It’s totally fine and normal for this to happen on occasion, although it is still likely to disrupt sleep quality.

If your child is snoring or mouth breathing all or most of the time, and you’re also struggling with sleep, this is worth looking into.

Both issues are treatable and your child can have healthy sleep habits!

Let’s talk about signs, causes, and what to do.

What Causes Snoring and Mouth Breathing In Children?

Snoring and mouth breathing often happen at the same time, although not always. Here are some common reasons why children snore or mouth breathe:

  • Large or swollen tonsils or adenoids
  • Congestion, often caused by allergies or illness
  • Asthma
  • Obesity
  • Anatomic characteristics – think structural differences in the face, jaw, nose, or palate
  • Contaminated air or exposure to cigarette smoke

Snoring and mouth breathing are also potential indicators for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which are incidents where the body stops breathing very briefly, which will cause the body to wake up enough to start breathing again. Understandably, this is very disruptive and significantly impacts the quality of sleep.

Why Does it Matter?

Snoring and mouth breathing can significantly impact both sleep quality as well as oral health. Some common signs and concerns related to mouth breathing are:

  • Waking with a headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Restless or interrupted sleep
  • Difficulty lengthening naps while diligently sleep training
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Excessively high sleep needs – poor quality sleep and fragmented sleep can result in children spending more time in bed as their bodies are trying to get the sleep they need
  • Behavior issues
  • Inattentiveness or difficulty concentrating

A Little Story…

As you can see, snoring and mouth breathing is usually an indicator of an airway issue, or something structural.

One of my first little clients ever, we’ll call him C, was having so much trouble with sleep training and we were not seeing the decrease in the night wakes or the longer, consistent naps we were striving for.

C’s Mom was super consistent and laser-focused, so we knew something had to be up. When I dug a little deeper, Mom said that she’d heard him snoring a few times and he frequently breathed with his mouth open. I urged her to have that checked out.

About a year later, I heard from C’s Mom with an update. She met with an ear, nose, and throat specialist and learned that C had very large tonsils that were obstructing his breathing. C had to have his tonsils removed. After surgery, C’s sleep quality and overall health improved dramatically!

What Can You Do About It?

If you notice your baby or child is snoring or breathing through their mouth while sleeping, consult with your pediatrician and ask for a referral to an ENT. A pediatric dentist may also be able to help and can be a good place to start if you are not able to get a referral.

At Bella Luna Family, we do not recommend implementing a sleep training method if your child snores or breathes through their mouth until you’ve had this assessed by a healthcare provider and determined whether or not your child needs treatment.

We always want to set you up for success and make sure this process is fair to your child. If there is a structural issue with the face, jaw, mouth or airway, behavior modification may not help improve sleep quality to the extent that you’d like.

Once you’ve got the thumbs up that your child is healthy enough to learn healthier habits, we’d love to help you! Contact us to learn more about working together.

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