Mouth Breathing Isn't Cute

I am writing this blog in response to a Facebook ad photo that I came across featuring a child's open mouth, promoting restful sleep.

An open mouth during sleep is not cute and is not leading to healthy, restorative sleep!


This Facebook advertisement was for an app that I purchased to help my child get to sleep faster with soothing melodic sounds and soft short stories narrated by calming voices.

As I said in my comment, we adore the app, but as retargeted Facebook ads work for most companies, the mouth breather ad continues to reappear in my social media accounts even after purchase. This issue is too important for health and I couldn't let it go without commenting.


You can see in the photo it features a child with her mouth wide open during sleep. This is not healthy sleep!

As a physiologic dentist who helps children and adults with these varied craniofacial and airway issues, I was concerned and immediately commented on the ad.

Shortly after my comment, the app company social media manager responded letting me know they appreciated the feedback.

The remarks that ensued after that comment now read like a living (PSA) public service announcement.

Here is a small sample of some of the comments. I blurred out names of the commenters.


Open-mouth breathing during sleep and during our waking hours is just one obvious clue to which many parents and caregivers are unaware of the negative consequences.

Parents need to look for signs of mouth breathing in children, so the problem can be corrected before it worsens.

A child who breathes continuously through the mouth, especially during sleep, delivers cold, unfiltered, dry air to the lungs, and that's only part of the problem.

These are seven signs of the health problems associated with mouth breathing in children and adults.



When children breathe through their mouths during the day, the chances are high that they also do at night too. Mouth breathing at night can directly affect altered levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the bloodstream. When less oxygen reaches the brain, learning, and the ability to focus at school becomes a problem for many children.

Read Dr. Heidi Dickerson’s article of the importance of Nitric Oxide and Mouth Breathing ➦



Mouth breathing is linked to sleep apnea, which causes children to frequently wake at night and wake up exhausted the next day. Children who habitually breathe through their mouths are also more likely to suffer from sleep apnea as adults.

Read more about the effects of Sleep Apnea

ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder)

Disrupted sleep can reduce the time spent in deep restorative sleep. Lack of deep (REM) sleep may reduce the child's ability to pay attention and concentrate at school, which may be mistaken for ADHD.
_finding connor deegan_ (1).png

This YouTube story one mom published, "Finding Connor Deegan" sheds more light into the connection with healthy sleep and misdiagnosed children.


A child with an always-open mouth will very likely grow into an adult with flatter facial features, less prominent cheekbones, a longer face, droopier eyes and lower facial muscle tone, a narrower palate, and even a smaller lower jaw. Maintaining nasal breathing can prevent negative growth patterns like these.

Read more about the effects that mouth breathing has on facial development

Left, you can see the effects of mouth breathing versus development depicted in the illustration on the right.
Left, you can see the effects of mouth breathing versus development depicted in the illustration on the right.


It is usual for saliva to wash bacteria from the mouth continuously. If the mouth is consistently dry from mouth breathing, bacteria can more readily take hold and cause problems like cavities and halitosis.


Speech is affected by an open mouth as a child may also have a tongue thrust swallowing pattern. This type of swallowing pattern causes the tongue to protrude or push forward during speaking and swallowing. Also, children are more likely to struggle with specific speech sounds such as a lisp, or the inability to pronounce "s" sounds.


Tethered oral tissues (TOTs) can have lifelong consequences. Physiologic dentists like Dr. Randi Green are advanced health-care providers that screen for these issues in children and adults.

Tethered Oral Tissues include

  • Tongue Ties
  • Lip Ties
  • Buccal Ties
Tongue Range of Motion Ratio (TRMR)
Tongue Range of Motion Ratio (TRMR)

Many adults have these oral anomalies. Signs and symptoms include being more likely to have mouth breathing, enlarged adenoids, and tonsils, snoring, and sleep apnea issues.

When these symptoms alter feeding and breathing, the brain will often overcompensate to protect these functions during growth and development. These abnormalities can lead to other body imbalances such as TMJ pain, headaches, improper posture, forward head posture, chronic back, and neck pain, and chronic stress due to poor sleep, speech impediments, to name a few.

Proper nasal breathing is so vital for children's facial growth and development. We want to avoid mouth breathing to set kids up for success and potentially prevent a lifetime of problems. We provide early conservative intervention that works with kids' natural growth patterns to create smiles beyond teeth.

What are signs of mouth breathing?

Watch out for these other signs that your child is mouth breathing.

  • Their gums can show signs of redness and inflammation. Even with good oral health, when a child breathes through their mouth all night, these soft tissues dry out.
  • The child complains of a dry and itchy throat when they wake up with a burning sensation. Mouth breathing can also lead to chronic bad breath from constant dry conditions in the oral cavity.
  • The child snores during naps or sleep. Snoring is not healthy for children or adults and should be investigated. I help my children and adult patients by screening for Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome.
Are you or your child breathing through your mouth, or your nose?
Are you or your child breathing through your mouth, or your nose?

What causes mouth breathing in children?

Mouth breathing in children can happen for many reasons and here are but just a few.

  • Allergies
  • Habit
  • Their bite may be off (The way their teeth bite together)
  • During sleep, the position of the jaw and teeth may keep lips from forming a proper seal
  • Abnormally large tonsils, which can obstruct breathing
  • Structural defect, like a deviated septum, may make it more difficult to breathe through the nose
  • A skeletal deformity that makes it easier for the child to breathe if they lean forward and breathe through their mouth. This forward head posture promotes the growth of the upper jaw, rather than the lower jaw. The result can be a large overbite and a gummy smile and can develop into early TMJ pain-related symptoms.


Determine why mouth breathing is happening before seeking a correction. If the cause is oversized tonsils, then removing them might be an option.

As a whole-health dentist, I screen for these root causes in all new patient exams and can determine if a referral to ENT or other sleep specialists would be beneficial for your child's health.

If your child can't close their lips over flared front teeth, then one solution may be orthodontic treatment along with myofunctional therapy to strengthen the lips, tongue, and cheeks to find harmony and balance during growth and development.

We can then discuss physiologic orthodontic options we make available and which orthodontic option might work best to correct these abnormalities in children and adults.

A thorough dental exam and consultation can help determine the root causes and what is causing your child's mouth breathing, which can alter healthy facial growth and development patterns.

Watch your children and grandchildren closely. It is much easier to redirect growth and development with early intervention. In addition to helping children, we work with adults struggling with the same issues.

If you're seeing signs of mouth breathing or experiencing any of the signs listed above during the day or night, talk with one of my smile team and make a reservation. I can help you investigate the root issues and then we can talk about strategies to return your kids or yourself to being natural nasal breathers for your optimal health.

Related Blog Posts

No items found.

More Blog Posts

Get Started

New patient Registration
Is quick and easy

Talk to a Smile team member to start your new patient registration. It takes just minutes on your phone, tablet, or computer.

Start here

ask our team

contact the smile team