Breathing Easy (EL Health & Fitness)
Here’s how regular dental visits can help in identifying your child’s sleep-related breathing disorder.
Does your child snore? Do they have difficulty paying attention at school? Do they always feel sleepy during the day?
These could be signs of paediatric sleep apnoea, a disorder where breathing is partially or completely blocked at repeated intervals while asleep. It’s estimated that one to three percent of all children have sleep apnoea, with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) being the most common.
Just like in adults who have OSA, children’s airways are blocked repeatedly during sleep, creating gasping and excessive mouth breathing. If untreated, sleep apnoea can have a number of problematic effects – from long-term health complications and behavioural issues to dental problems such as over-bites and reduced lower jaw growth.
While your dentist may not be able to definitively diagnose the condition, signs and symptoms recognised during regular dental check-ups can help them decide if a referral to a sleep specialist or ENT is necessary, explains DR ZANELLE HARRIS of Expat Dental.
“Your dentist may ask you about various symptoms if they notice associated dental signs,” she says.
“Mouth breathing, which is commonly associated with paediatric sleep apnoea, has easily recognisable dental effects. These children often have a dry mouth with increased plaque build-up and gum irritation. Your dentist may also note that your child has a narrowing of the upper jaw or large tonsils.”
Common symptoms experienced by children with night-time breathing difficulties include:
• daytime sleepiness;
• difficulty paying attention;
• learning difficulties;
• mouth breathing;
• restless sleep patterns; and
• pauses in breathing while asleep.
“If you think that your little one may be suffering from difficulty breathing while asleep, your dentist may be able to help,” says Dr Harris. “Dental treatments directly aimed at correcting the effects of mouth breathing can help alleviate breathing restrictions.”
Your dentist can also recommend your child to a sleep or ENT specialist for the necessary assessments and treatments.
BY AMY GREENBURG
Originally published in Expat Living Singapore magazine
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