Breathing wellness in children

Breathing, Wellness, and The Developing Child

Children cannot thrive and reach their true intellectual and developmental potential without breathing properly, throughout the day and throughout the night. 

An underdeveloped facial structure with narrow nasal passages, narrow dental arches and a resultant crowded dentition creates a very poor environment for proper breathing. This is a result of poor tongue position, poor lip posture, and improper breathing throughout the day and night. Children become mouth breathers due to the inability to pass air through their nasal passages, leading to an open mouth posture with resultant improper jaw and facial development.

Mouth breathers deliver poor quality air to the lungs resulting in many undesirable effects. Every breath should be made through the nose since that it is the way the human body was designed. You see, the nasal passages take the incoming air and filter it to remove unwanted bacteria, viruses, mold, fungus and all sorts of unwanted dust and debris that exist within the air around us.

In addition, the nasal passages moisturize and warm the incoming air so that the sensitive lung tissue welcomes the incoming breath without the shock of cold air.

So, you see, the nasal passages function as a filter, as well as an air conditioner to prepare the incoming air for maximum utilization by the oxygen, capturing tissues of the lungs.

There is another special function of the nasal passages which entails the addition of a special chemical in the air that enhances its uptake in the cells which give us life- nitric oxide. 

Nitric Oxide is added to each and every nasal breath, within the nasal chamber. It is then attached to the oxygen molecule and assists in delivering the oxygen to the cells throughout our body, including the developing brain. 

Mouth breathing does not provide the same naturally protective functions to the child which occurs when breathing through your nasal passages- resulting in inadequate oxygen uptake to the cells of the developing child. Brain cells that receive less than adequate oxygen are especially affected in a negative way, resulting in a lowered intellectual potential and poor school performance. 

The Stanford Sleep Institute reports a 10-15% lowering of IQ performance in children eight-years old who are mouth breathers, over their nasal breathing counterparts.

Today’s modern child is at great risk for both physical and mental deficits in development due to improper breathing behaviors, due to the modern, cultural lifestyle. 

Some of the causative factors include; bottle feeding, pacifier use, digit sucking, soft foods, the use of sippy cups, lip and tongue ties, just to name a few.

The bone structure of the human face develops its shape and size based on the physical forces that act upon it. The forceful air of each nasal breath expands the nasal cavity and facial sinuses which leads to a fully developed nasal cavity. The muscular pressure of a fully released and functioning tongue, along with facial muscles, creates forces that expand the palate and developing jaws to allow for plenty of room for the teeth to erupt without crowding.

Ideally, upon birth, a child should nurse properly and thereby become an obligate nasal breather. As the child nurses, the oral cavity creates a latch seal and a resultant vacuum withdraws the milk. The nasal passages are completely opened allowing for optimal nasal breathing, which is sustained even after weaning. The child weaning away from nursing should be introduced to a cup around six months of age allowing for proper lip, tongue, and facial muscle activity during the swallowing of liquids. These soft tissue reflexes, created during nursing, create forces that continue to expand the developing bone structure of the child’s face after weaning. The frequent use of nursing bottles, sippy cups, and straws, all exert a sucking coercion on the developing face with a resultant narrowing of the dental arches and mouth breathing. This opposes the natural soft tissue reflex created during nursing causing a continued collapse of the child’s facial bone structure. This cultural habit and behavior is now carried over to adults with the frequent use of sport bottles and water bottle use.

The physical structure of the human face is supposed to be broad, not narrow. This allows the child to breathe fully and deeply permitting strong physical activity and exertion without stress. 

What a shame it is to see today’s young children with narrow facial bones, narrow arches and crowded dentitions, unable to keep up in sports, with restless sleeping, all leading to poor school performance because they struggle with breathing properly.

A sleep related breathing disorder evaluation, will oftentimes reveal a nasal obstruction, tongue and lip ties, and a narrow maxillary arch with a high palate. Correction of these physical impediments to proper breathing should be addressed and are all within the scope and responsibility of pediatric dentists.

Pediatric Dentists are dedicated to caring for all children and providing them with every advantage possible to grow/develop properly. We focus on maintaining superior educational and therapeutic services designed to prevent and treat concerns associated with the child’s oral and facial structural, aesthetic development, while impacting the child’s overall health and development.

Pediatric Dentists need to be the first line of defense in identifying and correcting these life-altering disorders in the growth and development stages of children.

Every child deserves a comprehensive evaluation to ascertain their growth and development status and to identify corrective action where indicated. In today’s professional world there are many approaches to correcting these growth and development disturbances. These include proper referrals to collaborators, such as ENT’s, orthodontists, speech therapists, and myo-functional therapists all of which must be managed by the pediatric dentists.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry must support a healthy breathing initiative on behalf of the member dentists that we serve. The only way that this imminent healthcare crisis can be addressed is through the training and dedicated guidance provided to the member dentists of the AAPD.

Recognizing that ‘Sleep Related Breathing Disorders’ in children is negatively impacting the lives of children requires our immediate attention. The AAPD must initiate a plan to address this emerging field in the total health care of children. 

KidZdent is here to the rescue creating a healthy breathing initiative dedicated to achieving maximum life potential for the children that we serve.

Cavan Brunsden, DMD

September 2020

“Little can be done for grown up people…the intelligent man begins with the child…” - Goethe

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