Why your child’s sleep habits matter
by Dr. Nicholas Meyer —
It may be hard to believe, but the fact that breathing is fundamental to life is becoming more widely acknowledged. It is humorous to even think about that statement, but the truth is that poor sleeping/breathing habits, which include snoring — or worse — complete cessation or stoppage of breathing, are epidemic.
Can you imagine not getting all the air you need while sleeping, a time when your body is repairing and rejuvenating itself for the rigors of the next day? Dentists are at the forefront of this public health menace and are best equipped to successfully treat the vast majority of adults with the problem.
But what about our children’s sleeping habits? Dentists are seeing an increasing rise of pediatric airway challenges with a vast array of causes. These need to be identified and managed to alleviate undue stresses to children. But what are some of the consequences? Poor rest and sleep habits can lead to poor school performance, childhood obesity and teeth grinding, which has the potential to become a life-long habit before the age of 2.
Other challenges are diminished immune system function and all the other problems that can stem from that. Bedwetting has been linked to pediatric airway problems. Children are increasingly being studied in overnight sleep labs and are being given breathing assistance machines for sleeping. This might be effective for the short term, but can you really imagine a child going for a sleepover and bringing his continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine? There has to be a better way.
So what can a parent do about a child’s pediatric airway problems? Answers are out there, but you might have to cast a wide net to find help. It could include addressing allergy and diet; help from a dentist knowledgeable in the field of dentofacial orthopedics; help from a sleep doctor to monitor the physiology of the child’s sleep patterns and habits; or a doctor who could remove adenoids and/or tonsils to help open up the airway. Often the dentist will be your quarterback in this game. He or she can direct you to various resources where your needs can best be met.
A dentist understands the requirements of the mouth for the size of the jaws and the tongue so that all can coexist happily together, rather than fighting each other and creating pathology.
Taking early action on behalf of your child will likely result in a happier, healthier child who will suffer less from snoring, sleep apnea, diabetes, obesity and other problems now and into adulthood.
Nicholas Meyer, D.D.S., D.N.M., is a general dentist in Scottsdale, Ariz., who has a special interest in developmental disturbances of the facial complex that contribute to such maladies as TMJ, snoring and sleep apnea. milldental.com, DrMeyer@milldental.com or 480-948-0560.
Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 34, Number 1, February/March 2015.