The influence of oral respiration on child development

Breathing is a basic function of the body that transports oxygen to the lungs and removes carbon dioxide from the environment.

Normally, in breathing, the starting point is the nasal cavity. Air enters through the nostrils, passes through the pharynx, trachea and reaches the lungs to perform air exchanges.

In some conditions of increased physical exertion, when the amount of air reaching the lungs needs to be increased, the oral cavity may also play a role in inspiration.

If oral inspiration is transient, limited in time, it does not affect the child’s development. However, if inhalation occurs for long periods of time, only orally, a number of changes occur in the oral cavity:

  • Changes in the palatal vaultthe palate or roof of the mouth, as it is known to patients, suffers when inspiration is oral. Thus, the incoming air plays a role in moving the palate upwards and making it narrower. A narrow palate automatically leads to less space for normal tooth eruption and over time, as dental units emerge on the arch, crowding will occur.

  • The tongue changes position – the tongue is normally crowded by dental units in both the front and side regions. If, however, inspiration is carried out on the mouth, the child will keep the mouth open longer, the arches will be pushed away and the tongue will protrude between the incisors. As the tongue stagnates between the teeth, there will be changes in both the course of swallowing and dental contact. The bite of the copula will suffer.

  • The appearance of the face as a whole will change – the mouth-breathing child will have a more oval, elongated face, precisely because the lower floor between the nose and the chin is oversized due to the mouth always being open. The face will be flattened at the sides, due to the cheek muscles compressing the facial bones.

The child will also suffer some changes in behavior during meals.

Because of the need to open the mouth as quickly as possible in order to breathe, the child will chew quickly or swallow unchewed.

During meals, the infant will consume increased amounts of liquids to encourage the food bowl to slide down to the lower structures of the digestive tract.

The child has a pale, suffering aspect, is anemic and in time may also develop digestive disorders if this incorrect breathing habit is not corrected.


In the treatment of this abnormality, the cause must first be found. In most cases it may be polyps, which lead to inefficient nose breathing.

Investigations must necessarily include an ENT specialist consultation and treatment must aim both to correct the vicious habit of mouth breathing and to solve the dental problems.

The therapy is long-lasting and the child’s progress must always be monitored to intercept any attempt to return to the vicious habit.

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