Studies: Baby Breathing Through Mouth Has Side Effects

Almost all babies experience breathing through the mouth at least once in their lives. This is due to airway blockage caused by both mild and severe medical conditions.

The most prevalent reason is the common cold, which is why sometimes you see them sleeping with their mouths open.

While mouth breathing is necessary when nasal breathing is difficult, you should not allow your baby to do so for a prolonged period, as it may result in adverse effects in the future. 

Here are some of them.


What Could Happen if Baby Breathes Through Mouth

wrapped baby

#1: She may not perform as well as her peers in school.

A study conducted in Brazil aimed to see the results of mouth breathing on a child’s memory, arithmetic skills, and reading comprehension.

Researchers Rita Cristina Sadako Kuroishi and her colleagues asked for parents’ consent to involve their children in the study. The total sample size for the study is 42, which was divided into control and focus groups. The children are age 7 to 10.

The participants were tested in a quiet room one by one using the following: 1) Sentence Reading Competency Test for reading comprehension, 2) arithmetic subtest from the School Performance Test, 3) Auditory Sequential Memory subtest 5 for recalling numbers, and 4) pseudoword repetition test of Kessler for recalling words.

The results showed that the focus group (mouth breathers) has “low academic achievement and poorer phonological working memory.” They scored lower in reading comprehension, arithmetic, and word recall. However, they fared similarly to the control group in number recall.

However, the researchers admit that a more extensive study is required to confirm these results. Future studies could use more test materials.

But here’s where it gets more interesting.

An experiment conducted on 24 rats showed that mouth breathing causes a delay in lung development. This retardation causes “considerable reduction in memory and

learning ability in rodents.”

Basing on these two studies alone, we can say that mouth breathing has an adverse effect on an individual’s cognitive performance.

#2: Her sense of taste could deteriorate.

Another possible effect of breathing through mouth for your baby is the deterioration in the sense of taste. 

Four researchers from Japan conducted a study on 30 participants, aged 22-35 years. These were divided into two groups: the mouth-breathing group and the control group.

The participants were tested for their thresholds for five tastes--sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami--using a filter-paper disk method. They were also asked about salivary secretion, olfactory function, and nasal obstruction snoring.

The study concluded that the mouth-breathing group has a higher threshold for all tastes except salty and umami. They also have a drier mouth, a higher tendency to snore, and more instances of nasal obstruction.

In other words, those who habitually breathe through their mouth is at risk for taste deterioration.

#3: She could have a craniofacial deformity and malocclusion.

As your baby grows, it’s not only her respiratory system that develops based on her breathing pattern. Her craniofacial structures are affected as well. These structures, then, affect the positioning of the teeth, dental arches, and other parts in the oral system. 

According to a literature review published in 2016, mouth breathers tend to have longer faces, constricted maxillary arches, crowding of the teeth, malocclusion, etc. 

These findings were supported by a large-scale study in the United Kingdom, involving 4,784 children. Their parents were first asked regarding the symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) when the kids were less than 81 months old. 

These children were assessed again when they were 18 to determine their face shape morphology.

However, this study has an interesting point:

The craniofacial deformities “may be diagnostic facial features of SDB.” This means SDB, which involves mouth breathing, may not cause the deformities. Instead, those with deformities may develop SDB.

#4: She may chew inefficiently.

Another study in Japan examined the efficiency of chewing among ten adults. All these subjects have exhibit normal nasal breathing and occlusion. They have no oral or facial abnormalities that could affect the way they chew.

The participants were asked to chew gum using normal nasal breathing and mouth breathing, and the quantity and quality of chewing strokes were measured.

This study concludes that it takes longer for the mouth breathers to chew to get to the desired outcome. The practical implication for this is that if your baby is breathing through mouth frequently, she will need more time to eat.

#5: She may have a postural disorder.

A study involving 293 mouth-breathing children from 3 to 12 years old aimed to measure the cervical spine range of motion. This is because those diagnosed with mouth breathing syndrome are observed to have a postural disorder, particularly in head positioning.

An explanation for that is mouth breathers have the need to reduce the resistance of their airways and increase the pharyngeal dimension.

So what they would do is to extend their neck and forward their head when breathing. The repetition of this movement causes a muscular imbalance that affects the posture.

While a limited movement of the neck does not have any life-threatening implications, it can definitely affect your child’s movement.


sleeping baby

These studies clearly tell us that there are undesirable effects of mouth breathing. It can affect your baby’s cognitive performance, sense of taste, duration of eating, facial structure, and neck posture.

Hence, the earlier you detect her mouth breathing tendency, the better. You can ask your doctor how it can be treated.

But note that sleeping with mouth open does not mean your baby is breathing through mouth. What I would do to make sure she’s mouth breathing is to place my finger close to the mouth, where I could feel the breathing. If I feel she exhales from it, then she’s mouth breathing.

The next thing I would do is to clear her nose of whatever’s blocking it. Fortunately, none of my children became mouth breathers.

Ibeaa Perdon

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