What does Nasal Breathing Have to do with your Child’s Speech Development?
Is your child a chronic snorer? Suffer from frequent congestion from illnesses and or allergies? Have you noticed that your child’s mouth rests in an open mouth posture? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it may be time to visit your child’s pediatrician to help your child learn how to breathe optimally.
Nasal breathing is the optimal breathing position and it has numerous health benefits including:
- Warming, moistening and filtering air
- Facilitating inhalation of nitric oxide
- Helping prevent colds, the flu, allergic reactions, etc.
- Facilitating correct action of the diaphragm
- Trapping large particles
- Promoting activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms and relaxes the body and promotes digestion
- Allowing the correct of the tongue, assisting in the formation of the natural dental arches and straight teeth
Conversely, chronic mouth breathing can contribute to these conditions:
- Greater incidence of snoring and sleep apnea
- Bad breath, dental decay and gum disease,
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
- Narrowing of the dental arch, jaw and palate
- Crowded and crooked teeth
- Loss of lip and tongue tone
- Enlarged tonsils and adenoids
- Feeding difficulties
- Hyperactivity and behavioral problems
What does this have to do with your child’s speech development?
Nasal breathing allows for a correct tongue resting position. A correct tongue resting positioning is where the tongue rests at the top of the mouth, sitting about 1/2 inch behind the front teeth. Go ahead and check your own tongue! Your entire tongue (including the back) should be pressing against the roof of the mouth, your lips should be sealed, and your teeth should rest slightly apart. Each time you swallow, your tongue pushes against the top of your mouth and helps form your palate and overall oral cavity.
Some children can’t consistently achieve a correct tongue resting position. For example, if their tongue needs to hang low in their mouth to let air in and out of the oral cavity (i.e., mouth breathing), the shaping of their oral cavity is impacted, as well as tongues function and tone. This can result in speech sound errors, such as a frontal lisp on /s/ and /z/ sounds.
So what should I do if my child is a mouth breather?
If you think your child may be a mouth breather, talk to your child’s pediatrician. They can help refer you to a professional who can best assist your child (e.g., an allergist, an ears-nose-throat specialist (ENT), a dentist, and/or a speech therapist with orofacial myofunctional therapy training).
For more information on healthy breathing please visit: https://leader.pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/leader.FTR1.23022018.48