Mouth breathing is one of those things that is largely self-explanatory. It's essentially when someone breathes almost exclusively through their mouth, rather than using both their nose and their mouth. Habitual mouth breathing isn't a significant concern, although mouth breathing can also be obstructive (indicating a blockage of the sinuses) or anatomic (when a medical condition has led to a malformation of the sinuses). If your child has developed a habit of mouth breathing, you should be aware of the potential risk to their dental health.
Your Family Physician
Ongoing mouth breathing should be assessed by your family physician. They will want to rule out obstructive or anatomic causes—which may require medical intervention. Chronic habitual mouth breathing requires a changing of these habits. Your child is made aware of their tendency to lapse into mouth breathing and must concentrate on avoiding the habit. This may become easier and more effective as your child grows older. When your child's mouth breathing is first identified, it can be sensible to have them assessed by your family dentist.
Mouth breathing may not necessarily be destructive to a person's health, but there is an elevated risk. Chronic mouth breathing can dry out the mouth and gums, and this can lead to a number of dental issues. The gingival tissues (gums) may be irritated, and depleted saliva production can lead to accelerated deterioration of the teeth. Saliva helps to neutralize the acidic components of oral bacteria, which contributes to the erosion of a person's dental enamel. Additionally, saliva flushes away food debris.
A Precautionary Measure
Having your child assessed by your family dentist is a precautionary measure, allowing any problems caused by mouth breathing to be caught in the early stages. If your child is able to minimize (and ideally abstain from) their mouth breathing, any ongoing risks will be reduced. Should the dryness of your child's teeth and gums be causing any problems, your dentist will intervene.
In addition to reminding your child about the importance of staying hydrated, which will help to offset any reduced saliva production, your family dentist may wish to add a transparent sealant to your child's teeth to protect them from enamel erosion. A fluoride varnish may also be applied, as this can help to bolster compromised dental enamel.
Mouth breathing doesn't pose a major risk to your child's dental health, but the risk is there. So if your child excessively breathes through their mouth, it's important to find out why, while also taking the necessary steps to protect their dental health. Schedule a visit with a family dentist to discuss your child's mouth breathing.