New parents quickly realize that they have to pay attention to a lot of things they have never had to give much thought to before. Like whether their baby typically breathes through their mouth or their nose.
Does that even matter?
Yes, it actually does, and if you find that your baby is breathing primarily or even exclusively through their mouth, that’s something you should take a closer look at. More on that in a moment, but first let’s take a look at the benefits of nose breathing.
There are three main benefits to nose breathing:
- First, nasal passages are lined with tiny hairs (yes, even a baby’s) that filter out dust and other tiny airborne particles. Because who wants to breathe in dust?
- Second, breathing through the nose warms and humidifies air before it reaches our lungs, which makes it more comfortable to breathe.
- Finally, the nose produces nitric oxide, which is good for the immune and cardiovascular systems, and nasal breathing moves it along to the lungs and into the bloodstream so it can travel to other parts of the body.
Breathe through your mouth and you miss out on all these benefits. And chronic mouth breathing may be the sign of a problem that needs to be addressed, like allergies or enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Kids who have these conditions often develop sleep apnea, which causes them to awaken (even if they don’t remember it) many times a night. This interrupted sleep causes them to come to school fatigued, which impacts their learning and even their behavior.
Mouth breathing can also lead to dental problems because it dries out the mouth and deprives it of the beneficial effects of saliva. This in turn makes the mouth more vulnerable to infection and conditions like gingivitis, which is characterized by red swollen gums.
The good news is that the conditions that may underlie chronic mouth breathing are treatable. So observe your child and talk to their pediatrician about what’s going on if mouth breathing is something you’re noticing a lot. With their help, you can figure out the best course of treatment.