Is your child experiencing symptoms of fatigue, inadequate sleep, difficulties at school, or other unusual types of behaviors?
As hard as it may be to believe, the cause is likely attributed to pediatric sleep-disordered breathing, involving issues with the jaw, mouth, and teeth.
The medical world is just in its infancy to understand this condition and its ubiquitous effect on children. Continue reading to learn about pediatric sleep-disordered breathing, the symptoms, and how to help your child
What is sleep-disordered breathing?
Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), is a general term for breathing difficulties during sleep. SBD can range from frequent loud snoring to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition where part, or all, of the airway is blocked repeatedly during sleep. This can happen hundreds of times every night! Generally, sleep apnea is caused by a blockage in nasal passages or throat, which makes the oxygen levels in your blood decrease and the CO2 levels rise, with our brains getting deprived from oxygen and startling you very briefly awake. So briefly in fact that most people have no idea that it’s even happening.
While this may seem like a minor inconvenience, the effects of sleep apnea can be punishing on your body and dangerously hinder our children’s development as their precious sleep cycles get interrupted!
Sleep-disordered breathing in children
While many parents may know about sleep apnea in adults (and may even have it themselves), few understand that children can also experience this serious condition.
In fact, pediatric sleep-disordered breathing is so common that 9 in 10 children experience at least 1 symptom of the condition, with many suffering from even more.
In many ways, pediatric sleep apnea is a lot like the condition found in adults. The airway is blocked or constricted, causing breathing to be interrupted. This causes your child’s sleep to be disrupted and keeps them from getting the amount of sleep they need. Interruptions in sleep lead to interruptions in the release of the growth hormones that are critical for our children’s proper development. As a result, cognition, behavior, and overall health start heading into a state of decline. Further, sleep-disordered breathing in children can lead to lifelong breathing complications and health challenges that are much more difficult to fix in adulthood.
12 Common symptoms for sleep-disordered breathing in children
It’s no secret that kiddos need their sleep! So while sleep-disordered breathing issues in adults can be subtle, symptoms in children can be quite severe — especially since kids need nine to eleven hours of sleep regularly to stay healthy!
Pay close attention to any of the following symptoms in your child:
- Mouth breathing while sleeping or awake
- Restless sleep
- Bed wetting and nightmares
- Teeth grinding
- Crowded teeth
- Snoring or talking in sleep
- Overbite and open bite
- Forward head posture
- Asthma, allergies, dark circles under eyes
- Aggressive behaviour, irritability, ADD/ADHD
- Poor school performance
Remember, 9 in 10 children experience 1 of these symptoms!
What causes pediatric sleep-disordered breathing?
Many underlying issues could be causing sleep-disordered breathing in your child. These include risk factors common in adults such as family history and allergies. Other factors to consider:
- Lack of breastfeeding or improper technique caused by tongue-tie
- Thumb sucking or other behavioral habits such as tongue thrust and pacifier use
- Soft food diet
- Mouth breathing
- Poor tongue tone/posture
- Underdeveloped upper and lower jaws
A large cause of obstructive sleep apnea in children are cranio-facial issues such as problems with the mouth, jaw, or throat. This typically presents as overcrowded teeth and underdeveloped dental arches that are narrow and positioned too far back in their mouth. The tongue’s restricted range of motion, known as tongue-tie, could also be one of the main contributing factors (please see our tongue-tie page for more information).
No matter the underlying cause of your child’s sleep apnea, the condition results in a constricted or narrow airway that forces your child to breathe through their mouth.
The risks of mouth breathing
Unfortunately when it comes to your child’s breathing, it’s not as simple as “air is air.” A natural, steady balance between mouth and nose breathing is crucial for healthy development and good sleep.
Mouth breathing makes the underlying cause of your child’s sleep-disordered breathing even worse. Other risks associated with mouth breathing include:
- Imbalance in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your child’s body
- Swelling in the tonsils and adenoids, causing even further airway obstruction
- Improper functioning of your child’s entire mouth, including their ability to speak, chew, and swallow
- Poor development of their permanent teeth and as they grow older, bad breath, and gum disease
- Forward head posture that leads to significant stress on the spine
How do you treat sleep-disordered breathing in children?
The best way to treat sleep-disordered breathing in your child is to fix the issue right at the source, by properly aligning your child’s teeth and jaw to expand their airway for what nature intended. This is done through a custom dental appliance that encourages proper nasal breathing by repositioning your child’s teeth, mouth, and jaw. In conjunction with the dental appliance we employ Myofunctional Therapy to address and correct improper function.
Evidence has shown that these oral appliances can help children work through sleep-disordered breathing. It also shows that children who have their condition treated, breathe naturally through their nose, get better sleep, and behave better.
Early diagnosis and treatment is crucial. Please call us today to answer any questions you might have.
What can Bridgetown Dental do for your child?
At Bridgetown Dental, we help navigate any dental health issue you or your child may face. We not only invest in the latest technology, but also provide our staff with the best-in-class training and resources to ensure a successful treatment for each and every patient. Nowhere is this more true than with our pediatric sleep-disordered treatment.
If you suspect your child is experiencing these issues, here’s what we can initially recommend:
- Contact us as soon as you believe something is amiss in your child’s sleep cycle or if you notice any of the symptoms listed above
- We’ll evaluate your child in our office by using our high-tech diagnostic tools to conduct a thorough assessment.
- If we believe pediatric sleep-disordered breathing is the cause of your child’s challenge, we’ll recommend a custom dental appliance that will gently reposition your child’s jaw to encourage proper airway development.
- This custom appliance will need to be worn for approximately 3 to 6 months to fully work and requires minimal follow up appointments.
- Throughout your child’s treatment, we are here to support you with any challenges and ensure that they thrive and develop into the best version of themselves.
Our well trained staff will educate, support, and guide you and your child every step of the way.