Airway Health

airway health

Poor airway health can affect your child in a number of ways. Here are 5 things red flags to watch for that can indicate poor airway health.

Your Child Breathes Through Their Mouth

Firstly, sleeping with mouth open, tongue low posture is an immediate red flag for poor airway health. Mouth breathing also increases the prevalence of having crooked teeth. It allows for the tongue to not be “up” on the palate or roof of the mouth, creating an opportunity for the teeth to move or become crooked.  Tongue up resting posture is ideal for optimal palate expansion and jaw growth.  

You Can Hear Them Snoring While Sleeping from Poor Airway Health

Snoring is another sign that the child does not have their tongue resting on the palate and are not nasal breathing.

You Can Hear Them Grinding Their Teeth in their Sleep

Teeth grinding is more common than you may think. Teeth grinding occurs because the child is attempting to open their airway to breathe better. In the act of the body attempting to open the airway, the jaw is pushes forward, therefore, sliding the teeth together with force. This is a serious sign of sleep disordered breathing.

Presence of Challenging Behavior or an ADHD Diagnosis

All children with an ADHD diagnosis or challenging behaviors impacting daily living should have their airway health screened. Poorly oxygenated air during sleep is linked to poor attention and challenging behaviors. Jaw development, facial structure, and narrow or occluded airway could be a contributing factor to their ADHD and/or behavior.

Presence of Swollen Tonsils and Adenoids

Lastly, acute and chronic swollen tonsils and adenoids create a huge barrier for optimal nasal breathing. Ask your child to open wide so you can see whether their tonsils are inflamed, red, and/or swollen. Current clinical guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery recommend tonsillectomy as the first line of pediatric OSA treatment for children with tonsillar hypertrophy.1 Although removal of tonsils is the gold standard, up and coming research is indicating early palate expansion through dental appliances and implementation of supportive therapies can improve or eliminate obstructive sleep apnea.

What Should You do with Airway Health Concerns

If you have concerns, have your child’s airway health and jaw growth assessed by an airway focused dentist. Your pediatrician can help assist with referrals to a recommended dentist and your local pediatric rehabilitation clinic providing oromyofunctional therapy and/or behavior therapy.

  1. Yoon A, Abdelwahab M, Bockow R, Vakili A, Lovell K, Chang I, Ganguly R, Liu SY, Kushida C, Hong C. Impact of rapid palatal expansion on the size of adenoids and tonsils in children. Sleep Med. 2022 Apr;92:96-102. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2022.02.011. Epub 2022 Feb 19. PMID: 35390750; PMCID: PMC9213408.