Sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts while you are asleep. Many people know that signs of sleep apnea are loud snoring and feeling tired during the day even after a full night’s sleep. What many people don’t know, however, is that sleep apnea (particularly in children) can be addressed with dental treatment.

About Sleep Apnea

Sleep-related breathing disorders, including sleep apnea, are characterized by recurrent episodes of interrupted breathing during sleep. Typically, the airway becomes blocked by soft tissues near the back of the throat (e.g. tonsils or the tongue) that partially close off the windpipe. These tissues can vibrate as air passes by, causing snoring. This often gets worse while sleeping on one’s back, since this encourages the lower jaw to slip back and pushes the tongue in front of the airway.

Overweight people have a higher chance of developing sleep apnea due to fatty tissue deposits in the soft palate (the soft tissue in the back of the roof of the mouth), which decrease the size of the airway. The following are signs to look for when diagnosing sleep apnea:

  • Snoring
  • Pauses in breathing
  • Chronic mouth breathing
  • Constant tossing and turning
  • Night panics
  • Bed-wetting

How Can Dentists Treat Sleep Apnea?

At Dental Care South, Dr. Skalnik typically begins seeing children for their first dental hygiene appointments when they reach the age of three. However, our Tuscaloosa, AL office is open to seeing children that require special treatment before that. Your family dentist can help you figure out if there are any oral issues keeping your children from getting the restful sleep they need to maintain their health and well-being. When it comes to sleep apnea treatment, there are a number of options for both young and older children.

For younger children who are still growing, the use of an orthodontic appliance called a palatal expander has proven useful in some cases. This device gently widens the roof of the mouth (palate) over time by separating bones that don’t permanently fuse together until puberty. Normally, the expander is used to create more room for crowded teeth, but the expansion can also increase airflow.

Older children and adults who have stopped growing can sometimes benefit from Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT). This involves wearing a custom-made oral appliance designed to reposition the jaw during sleep and hold the tongue away from the back of the throat, reducing the potential for obstruction.

Don’t Sleep on Your Child’s Dental Health

Most people don’t associate teeth with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD). However, a 2012 study revealed that many children who are diagnosed with ADHD don’t really have the condition. Rather, their behavioral problems are actually due to sleep-related breathing disorders (SRBD), such as sleep apnea. The study, published by the journal Pediatrics, followed more than 11,000 children for six years, beginning from when they were 6 months old. The children who had SRBD were 40 to100 percent more likely than those without breathing issues to develop behavioral problems resembling ADHD by the age of 7. It makes sense, then, to consider whether interrupted sleep might be the primary issue at work.

Sleep Apnea & Dental Treatment

A well-rested individual, young or old, can function much better on a good night’s sleep. But a lack of rest affects different people in different ways. Sleepy adults tend to act sluggishly, while sleep-deprived children are more likely to become hyperactive, uncooperative, and unable to focus – just like kids with ADHD.

Dental Care South is Tuscaloosa’s trusted dentistry practice for a variety of general, cosmetic, and restorative dentistry services. Contact us today to learn more about the many types of dental treatment we offer and to make an appointment with us!

Share on