Why We Talk About Your Child’s Sleep At The Dentist

Knoxville and Maryville TN

Despite the old saying, “sleeping like a baby,” we now know that children are at risk for the same sleep disorders as adults and sleep-disordered breathing is not just a grown-up thing. Even children at a very young age can suffer from sleep-disordered breathing and if left untreated, could have negative consequences on their health.

Studies performed by researchers at the Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that more than 11,000 children with sleep-disordered breathing problems were more likely to develop emotional or behavioral problems. Also, these children struggled with developing peer relationships as opposed to children that did not exhibit any symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing.

The researchers of this study compiled information from parent questionnaires. Parents were asked to answer various questions about their child’s sleep and breathing patterns, beginning from when their child was six months old until almost seven years old. Questionnaires regarding their child’s emotional and behavioral development were given to the parents when their child was four years old and again at the age of seven. The questionnaire addressed these issues: hyperactivity, anxiety and depression, problems with peers, conduct issues such as aggressiveness and rule-breaking, and positive social behaviors such as sharing and helpfulness.

Researchers concluded that children with sleep-disordered breathing were at higher risk of developing behavior or emotional problems as compared to children who suffered no breathing disorder while sleeping. The study also found these startling facts: that by the age of one year, children with sleep-disordered breathing were 40-100% more likely to develop behavioral problems. Hyperactivity and behavioral issues increased the most among children with sleep-disordered breathing. Also, over the six-year evaluation period, the study concluded that children with the most persistent sleep-disordered breathing exhibited the most severe behavioral problems of all.

Although this large-scale study provides a strong link between sleep-disordered breathing and behavioral problems among children, scientists have yet to determine why this is the case. The scientists believe a decrease in oxygen, lack of restorative sleep, and changes in body chemistry and cell development as a result of sleep deprivation, likely are what links sleep-disordered breathing and behavioral problems in children.

What exactly is sleep-disordered breathing and how do I know if it affects my child?

Parents or caregivers most commonly identify sleep-disordered breathing as mouth breathing or loud snoring while sleeping. A restricted airway often causes sleep-disordered breathing problems. Various modalities of treatment such as myofunctional therapy, tonsil and adenoid removal, removal of any nasal obstructions, interceptive orthodontic therapy (children age 3-7) orthodontic to expand and develop the arch form (not retractive or extraction based orthodontics…Just say NO to extracting permanent teeth), can typically correct or relieve the restriction of airflow.

Children who suffer from a sleep-breathing disorder may also exhibit aggressive behavior at school, and are more likely to experience cognitive delays in their development. If left untreated, these issues can follow a child into adolescence and adulthood. Sleep disorders are associated with unhealthful behaviors, depression, and other health-related issues.

Steps you can take to help facilitate a better night’s sleep for your child:

  • Removal of  electronics out of their room
  • Stick to a nighttime routine (darkness)
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment in their room
  • Wind down time before bed
  • Remove all pets from the bedroom
  • Remove sugars and caffeine after the lunch time hour

If you have concerns that your child may suffer from a sleep disorder, contact Crestview Dental Care, serving Knoxville and Maryville, Tennessee. We  collaborate with specific ENT’s and Pediatric physicians that focus on sleep breathing disorders and together we can help you find the answers that you have been searching for. We welcome all families into our Crestview Dental Care family.