My Child’s Mouth is Open at Rest – Is This Normal?
The short answer is – no! Having an open mouth posture is never normal. At rest, our lips should be closed and our tongue should be lightly suctioned to our palate. Having an open mouth posture is usually indicative of another issue. Here are some of the common issues:
Your child’s mouth might be open so that they can breathe through their mouth. We typically breathe through our noses, and all kids/babies should be able to do this as well. However, this could be impacted by enlarged tonsils, enlarged adenoids, or congestion due to allergies, etc. If you have airway concerns, it’s best to consult an ENT.
As stated above, our tongues should be lightly suctioned to the roof of our palate at rest. This starts in utero. If your child’s tongue is resting low and forward, it could cause the mouth to be open at rest. A tongue tie is a common reason that a child’s mouth might be in this low and forward position. If you are concerned about a tongue tie, it’s best to consult a speech-language pathologist with training in orofacial myology. They will be able to do a functional assessment and refer you to a release provider if necessary. Airway concerns could also cause your child’s tongue to rest in this position (i.e., if their tonsils are large, they’ll want to rest their tongue forward to make some room in the airway to breathe!).
Your child may be having difficulty keeping their lips together. This could be due to a lip tie. A lip tie is a restriction of the frenulum (tissue) located on the upper gum, which can impact mobility of the upper lip. Your child may also have lip weakness, low tone, etc.
Why is it a problem for my child’s mouth to be open?
Improper oral rest posture can lead to change in the growth of the face as well as dental issues. Open mouth posture may be indicative of a larger problem such as an airway issue or a tongue tie, which can impact sleep, feeding, speech, etc.
How do we treat an open mouth posture?
It is important to figure out the root of the problem (i.e., airway, tongue position, lip incompetence), and then treat accordingly. If your child is 4+, an orofacial myologist (typically a speech-language pathologist or registered dental hygienist) can help with these concerns. They can help determine the cause and refer you to the right ENTs (for airway concerns) or dentists (for possible tongue/lip ties). They will also work on improving oral rest posture by addressing issues with the tongue, lips, and/or jaw. If your child is under the age of 4 and/or has special needs, it’s best to seek out a speech-language pathologist with training in orofacial myology and pediatric feeding therapy.