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Mouth breathing, snoring and kids: the connection and why it’s important

Mouth breathing, snoring and kids are not things we typically connect with each other, but it does happen, and more frequently than you think.Aside from normal snoring, which might occur if a child is sick or very tired, persistent snoring in children is not normal. By persistent we mean habitual snoring that happens on four or more nights in a week.

Habitual snoring is a milder form of airway obstruction, called  ‘Sleep Disordered Breathing’.  SBD in kids is a big deal and should never be dismissed by parents if they’ve observed it in their children.

The reason it’s a big deal is we now realize snoring in kids can have serious consequences simply because the brain is not getting enough oxygen.

About mouth breathing and the brain

Breathing is an automated process controlled by the brain. Even if the brain realises it’s not getting enough oxygen through breathing, increasing the effort of breathing doesn’t achieve much at all. On top of that, any blockage to breathing results in oxygen levels in the blood dropping. When this happens, a whole host of problems are triggered.

While we don’t know everything about the brain, we do know it’s very complex.

For example, while we sleep, the brain needs to work without being interrupted. If something does occur to impact its function during this time (say, with oxygen levels), sleep can be adversely affected.

What happens to kids when they don’t get enough oxygen?

We are now starting to understand the impact of snoring and lack of oxygen on kids. The good news is, we know more. The not so good news? We find kids that snore suffer from:

  • Reduced attention
  • Greater likelihood of social problems
  • Higher levels of anxiety
  • More likely to experience depressive symptoms
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Cognitive dysfunctions
  • Problems with memory
  • Problems with functions like thinking problems through logically

It has been found oxygen levels drop in kids who snore. When this happens, the brain needs to make changes. It does this by increasing the pace of breathing and changing the blood flow to the brain.

Interestingly, studies have found once an obstruction is removed, a child’s concentration improves. Blood flow also returns to normal levels. Studies also found altered brain activity during the night affects smooth sleep patterns. This has been a pointer to behavioural and mood problems during the day.

What about when kids breathe through their mouth?

You might be surprised when your dentist first asks if your child is mouth breathing. Rest assured, there’s a logic to the question.

Although the air itself is the the same, the channel is comes through –  the nose or the mouth – makes a big difference.

In mouth breathing, which occurs in children when the nose is blocked, blood oxygen levels drop. This can lead to all the problems I’ve already described. That includes even if they don’t snore.

The bottom line

If you know your child snores or breathes through their mouth, it could be worthwhile to come in and see us. Not only is it important for their physical wellbeing, it is vital for their mental and emotional wellbeing as well.

We will be able to assist with recommendations and possible treatments. Far from taking a ‘wait and see’ approach, we know that the earlier the intervention, the better the outcomes from being fully informed to help make the best decisions?

Concerned about your child? Call 5573 1088 today about how we can help.

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