Oral motor issues that affect feeding often also affect feeding and sometimes speech as well! In a perfect world, when we are not speaking or eating, we breath through our nose alone, mouth closed! When this doesn’t happen, we say that a person is a mouth breather, meaning they have an open mouth posture at rest and this can happen during the day or a night, or both! 

Scientists are discovering that there’s a link between mouth breathing and one’s ability to focus and pay attention along with a host of other things! Why? Well, mouth breathing brings less oxygen to your brain and we know we need oxygen to do anything well. Nasal breathing is significantly more beneficial to the body and mouth breathing is quite harmful actually. In most cases, mouth breathing is a temporary solution for a child who has blocked nasal passages from a cold or allergies. However, if mouth breathing persists over time, it can be a sign of sleep apnea, a deviated septum, tongue-tie, enlarged tonsils, or sinus polyps. 

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Although snoring and mouth breathing are common now in children, physicians don’t usually screen for sleep-related breathing disorders. Parents should share ALL symptoms with their child’s doctor at their next appointment.

ADHD and mouth breathing share some common symptoms, including: 

  • Brain fog
  • Lack of attention to detail
  • Irritability upon waking
  • Mood swings
  • Problems concentrating
  • Crying episodes at night (not always)
  • Inability to concentrate

How to Tell If Your Child Is Mouth Breathing

When they are awake:

  • Is their mouth open while awake and doing something that doesn’t require talking (like watching tv, coloring, etc)? 
  • Do they chew with their mouth open?
  • When looking at a profile of their face (side view), is their chin recessed or jutting out?
  • Are any of their teeth crooked?
  • Do they struggle with making certain sounds?
  • Do they wake with a dry mouth?
  • Does the pillow have drool in the morning?

When they are asleep:

  • Does your child snore or have audible breathing? (Snoring is a huge indicator of a sleep-related breathing disorder)
  • Do they wet the bed?
  • Does your child wake up frequently throughout the night?
  • Does your child move around a lot during the night?
  • Does your child grind his or her teeth?

Why is ADHD and Mouth Breathing Connected?

Mouth breathing brings less oxygen to the brain compared to nasal breathing. Less oxygen, along with poor sleep creates a perfect storm for an unfocused day. One study proved that mouth breathing brings less oxygen to the brain compared to nasal breathing, which adversely affects brain function and gives rise to ADHD symptoms. It also found that, “Children with sleep-disordered breathing were from 40 to 100 percent more likely to develop neurobehavioral problems by age 7, compared with children without breathing problems.”

It’s not uncommon for a medical provider to prescribe medication for this condition, but it is not also a condition that warrants medication. It requires a closed mouth! Many countries require a sleep test in children before these medications are given, but the United States is not one of them.  It is important to explore all reasons for attention disorders before starting medication that may cause other effects.

Why is Mouth Breathing and Feeding Connected?

Mouth breathing happen with the jaw is low and usually the tongue comes along with it. When the tongue and the jaw are not doing what they are supposed to do, it indicates weakness, possible restrictions (ties) and instability. When you are that, it means the oral motor skills are generally poor and poor oral motor skills means difficulty moving food around in the mouth. This can create a negative experience with food and lead to children pushing out foods from their diet until they are left with a minimal number of ‘safe’ foods. 

What’s The Solution?

Helping your child stop mouth breathing can be done in a number of ways, depending on your child’s specific needs. It starts with an airway and a myofunctional assessment to determine what is exactly going on. Then, some options include myofunctional therapy to strengthen the tongue, a frenectomy to release a too-tight tongue, or other orthodontic appliances to expand the mouth and airway.

Schedule a Strategy Call

If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD or has ADHD symptoms, and if you think they may breathe through their mouth, schedule an evaluation with us! We can asses your child’s oral motor status virtually or in person. This will require a team approach though! Usually an ENT and orthodontist are an integral part of this team to remediate fully. 

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