Sleep breathing disorders are an Epidemic among American Children

Admin Team Pediatric Dentistry

Serving Brentwood, Belle Meade and Green Hills Areas of Nashville TN

It’s late, and you’re getting ready for bed after another long day. If you’re a parent, before shutting down everything, you probably check in on your children before going to sleep. What do you see and hear when you do this? Is your child snoring loudly? Maybe he or she is tossing and turning? Does their breathing pause at times? Any of these behaviors can be symptoms of a sleep breathing disorder. Your sleep apnea dentists in Nashville at Devine Dentistry want to inform you about these disorders: the warning signs, the consequences, why they’re becoming more widespread among American children, and how we can help.

More children suffer from sleep apnea than you might think

Sleep apnea usually is associated with older, overweight men. The reality is that any person of any age can develop sleep apnea or some other form of sleep breathing disorder. The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that up to 4 percent of children in the United States suffer from sleep apnea. A recent pediatric symposium focused specifically on how prevalent sleep breathing disorders were among children. Part of the challenge facing medical professionals in treating these disorders is making a correct diagnosis.

While children share many of the symptoms of sleep apnea that adults experience (such as snoring, restless sleep, and chronic daytime fatigue), certain symptoms of a sleep breathing disorder are unique to children. For example, did you know that children with a sleep breathing disorder often manifest behavior that mimics a hyperactivity disorder like ADD or ADHD? Many medical professionals misidentify the source of such behavior, and as a result, children may be prescribed medications or therapy to deal with their behavioral problems with minimal apparent progress. This is because the actual cause of these behaviors—the airway issue that is creating the sleep breathing disorder—has yet to be addressed.

Children are young enough to resolve sleep apnea by addressing their breathing

The majority of people in the Western world breathe through the mouth… not through the nose, as intended by nature. When you breathe through the nose, your body has more time to absorb oxygen. Other health benefits of nasal breathing include higher concentrations of nitric oxide, wider dental arches, and an open airway. Having a wide and open airway that is free of potential obstructions is key to avoiding a sleep breathing disorder. A child who frequently breathes through the mouth, on the other hand, is more susceptible to a host of potential issues, including issues with the development of the facial structure and jaws, as well as a greater proclivity to snoring or developing a sleep breathing disorder.

More and more medical practitioners are aware of the dangers of mouth breathing. Dr. Jay Werschky, a Michigan dentist who participated in the pediatric symposium in 2018, explained the link in an interview with ABC12 in Flint, saying, “If they’re a mouth breather, if they lay there in bed with their mouth open, just that opening of the jaw can constrict the airway 6 millimeters. And you only have 8 millimeters to start with when you’re a little kid. So you take off three-quarters of their airway, it makes a huge difference in the quality of their sleep.”

Sleep Apnea Screening in Nashville

Drs. Brian Devine and Russell Mack at Devine Dentistry both have gone through specialized training to screen and help treat sleep apnea and other sleep breathing disorders by addressing the root of the problem—whatever is happening with the airway to cause the breathing difficulties. As parents, be sure to remember that audible snoring never should be considered normal behavior in children. If your child is showing any combination of the symptoms listed above or has been diagnosed with a hyperactivity disorder, but medication and therapy are not producing behavioral changes, then your son or daughter needs to be screened for sleep apnea. Our dentists can work collaboratively with your child’s healthcare team to provide treatment for sleep apnea. Call (615) 269-4209 to schedule a consultation or a sleep apnea screening today.

Devine Dentistry is proud to serve patients in the areas of Belle Meade, Green Hills, and Nashville in Tennessee.