The Breath of Life

The Breath of Life

Nature has a way of being rather consistent. This consistency or lack thereof often helps alert us as parents and/or health care givers that a possible problem may exist.

The most important thing we put into our body is not food or water but rather the air we breathe. We breathe air through our noses where it is filtered, heated, humidified and provides the proper air resistance for good air exchange in the lungs. It is the norm that people breathe through their noses rather than their mouths. Periodically children become mouth breathers secondary to a cold or sinus congestion. This is generally a self-limiting event.

However, when a child begins to show signs of only breathing through their mouth or becoming "air hungry" when they are eating or otherwise unable to breath through their mouth this should be investigated.

According to Dr. James Garry, A noted authority on craniomandibular orthopedics and upper airway obstruction," When nasal respiration is circumvented by oral respiration, the passing air is not filtered, heated or humidified, the mandible drops increasing the mandibular plane angle, and the tongue is no longer in an optimal physiologic relation to developing dental arches. The result is lowered pulmonary oxygen saturation and abnormal oral-facial development".

From a growth and developmental viewpoint, airway obstructions alter the normal rest position and swallowing pattern of the tongue. Any variation in rest position of the tongue and swallowing pattern alters the course of facial and dental development.

The rest position of the tongue and swallowing pattern are two of the main controlling forces of growth in the face and head. Nineteen out of every twenty seconds the tongue is at rest, taking up space and placing forces on the teeth and bones of the face. When we swallow (over 2,000 times a day), and the tongue is in it's proper position, it places forces on the upper teeth and bones and is one of the dominant forces determining the growth pattern of the upper head and face.

Enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids, allergies or asthma are just a few examples of some conditions that can lead to chronic mouth breathing. At 4 years of age the child's head is 60% developed, at 12 years of age the child's head is 90% developed. During the ages of 6 through 8 are the ages where we see the growth occurring mostly in the nasal capsule area.

Your dentist will evaluate and inform you if any abnormal facial or dental development growth patterns exist or are likely to occur and will work closely with the ear, nose and throat specialist.

Dr. Stephen Petras

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