Is mouth breathing as a child related to obstructive sleep apnea as an adult?

This is an interesting question and the answer is yes.

Mouth Breathing In Children

Children may be a chronic mouth breather for many reasons: allergy, chronic sinusitis, nasal polyps, a deviated septum, enlarged turbinates, enlarged adenoid, and enlarged tonsils are some common causes.

When a child is a mouth breather when their face is developing the open mouth posture creates an abnormal pull on the developing facial skeleton. They tend to develop a weaker chin, smaller jaw, anterior overbite, narrow hard palate, high arched palate, and a posteriorly displaced chin.

They frequently require a lot of orthodontic work such as spreaders and braces.

Mouth Breathing in Adults

If the chronic mouth breathing persists into adulthood the eventual result despite the orthodontic work may predispose to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) as an adult. The facial structures that result that predispose to OSA include:

1. A narrow nasal floor with a limited nasal airway
2. An oral cavity space too small for the tongue size
3. An enlarged tongue
4. Posterior displacement of the jaw and tongue towards the back of the throat

These physical characteristics increase the likelihood of OSA.  It also makes the OSA more difficult to treat with conventional methods.

If you have a child that is a chronic mouth breather, it is important to have it thoroughly evaluated by an ENT and also work with your orthodontist.

Schedule a Consultation

If you are an adult that was a chronic mouth breather as a child, understand that you are at a higher risk for OSA and seek a consultation to obtain a home sleep test to have this serious condition diagnosed and treated.  Contact us today at 512.601.0303 to schedule an appointment!

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Posted in: Mouth Breathing, Pediatric ENT, Sleep Apnea, Snoring

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