Snoring and Mouth Breathing Could Be Cause for Concern

If your child was having trouble breathing, there’s no doubt you would be quick to seek out help from a pediatrician. But sometimes breathing disorders aren’t very obvious to parents, kids, or even some healthcare professionals. This is often the case for snoring and mouth breathing.

Snoring and mouth breathing are two fairly common symptoms of an underlying breathing disorder. Open-mouth breathing is often accompanied by snoring, but it can also occur at any time as your child goes about their normal day.

Let’s take a closer look at these two problems and why it’s important for parents to seek professional help.

Sleep Apnea in Children: Symptoms & Causes

The most common cause of snoring is sleep apnea, a fairly common breathing disorder that occurs when airways become blocked during sleep. Sleep apnea is much more frequently seen in adults, but it’s believed to affect about 4% of kids.

There are a couple of different forms of sleep apnea, with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) being the most prevalent. OSA in kids is the same as in adults, but the disorder is specifically referred to as pediatric obstructive sleep apnea.

Snoring and Mouth Breathing – Symptoms of Pediatric OSA

There are a number of symptoms associated with pediatric OSA, with children often showing multiple signs during the night and day. Nighttime symptoms include:

  • Chronic snoring on a nightly basis.
  • Open-mouth breathing during the night.
  • Noticeable pauses in breathing.
  • Tossing and turning.
  • Sleepwalking.
  • Bedwetting.
  • Nightmares or night terrors.

Daytime symptoms include:

  • Complaints of a sore throat or dry mouth.
  • Complaints of a headache.
  • A nasally or dry-sounding voice.
  • Needing more naps than is age-appropriate.
  • Daytime sleepiness, even after a full night’s sleep.
  • Moodiness and irritability.
  • Hyperactivity and trouble focusing.

Pediatric OSA isn’t always obvious to parents. Random snoring isn’t unusual in kids and, in many cases, kids with OSA can often seem like they’re getting a full night’s sleep. Even if your child doesn’t seem to wake up during the night, if they’re snoring and experiencing other symptoms, chances are they have undiagnosed pediatric OSA.

Causes of Pediatric OSA

Pediatric OSA and adult OSA are caused by the same trigger—something is obstructing normal inhalation while breathing. When the airway becomes obstructed or blocked, their breathing becomes hoarse and ragged, resulting in the sound we recognize as snoring.

Pediatric OSA is usually linked to one of three conditions:

  1. The child is overweight or has excess skin around the neck.
  2. There is a tumor or growth somewhere within the airway or neck.
  3. The child was born with a birth defect or syndrome that can affect breathing.

Underlying health conditions, such as enlarged tonsils or lymph nodes can also cause or contribute to OSA. OSA symptoms coupled with regular open-mouth breathing can also point to a nasal-related obstruction.

Treatment Options for Pediatric OSA

Pediatric OSA is a very treatable condition, and it’s recommended parents do seek out medical help even if their child seems to not be bothered by their own snoring or nightly open-mouth breathing. Forgoing treatment can lead to many of the daytime symptoms we’ve listed above as well as an increased risk of learning disorders and slow growth.

The most popular treatment option for kids is an oral appliance worn during the night. This appliance looks like a mouthguard and helps to keep your child’s jaw positioned in a way that prevents relaxed muscles in the throat from falling back.

In more difficult cases of pediatric OSA, a CPAP machine may also be necessary to ensure comfortable sleep for your child. Surgery may also be a solution in severe cases in which a child has excessive tissue in their throat that’s causing the obstruction.

Mouth Breathing in Children Unrelated to OSA

Mouth breathing that occurs not only at night but also throughout the day means that pediatric OSA may not be the underlying problem.

Chronic mouth breathing leads to a number of complications, including:

  • Dry mouth, which increases risks of tooth decay.
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding) that can damage teeth.
  • Misaligned bite requiring future orthodontic care.
  • Poor facial development and weak facial muscles.
  • Development of pediatric OSA and other sleep disorders.

Causes of chronic mouth breathing vary widely, making it crucial to seek out medical help to find the trigger and get proper treatment. For nasal obstruction, rapid maxillary expansion (RME) is often the go-to treatment. Orofacial myofunctional therapy (OMT) is often incorporated into a child’s treatment plan as well. In many cases open mouth breathing becomes a behavioral habit, requiring therapy post-surgery even when proper nasal breathing is completely restored.

How We Make Kids Smile Can Help Your Child Stop Snoring and Breathe Easier

If your child is experiencing nightly snoring, mouth breathing, or a combination of the symptoms we’ve talked about above, we can help!

The We Make Kids Smile dental team can offer parents assistance in diagnosing their child’s breathing disorder or pediatric OSA as well as provide oral appliances for OSA. In the event of nasal obstruction or health-related OSA, we will still be by your child’s side as you work with a specialist or pediatric doctor to find the right treatment plan. You can book your child’s appointment with us by calling our office or filling out this quick online form.

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Prince Frederick

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Prince Frederick, MD 20678


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