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Sleep Apnea

Is your little one struggling with poor performance in school, losing interest in their once-favorite activities, or consistently wetting the bed? Shockingly, sleep apnea can be the common denominator between these adverse behaviors. Even if you haven’t noticed pauses in your child’s breathing or earsplitting snoring, the consequences of sleep apnea can exhibit in unexpected ways. 

Still, there’s only one way to know if your child or teen is suffering from this destructive disorder, and pediatric dentist Dr. Heba Rashed can diagnose and apply minimally invasive dentistry techniques to get your child the help they need

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Petite Smiles Boutique Pediatric Dentistry exam area

What is sleep apnea?

The term “apnea” is derived from the Greek word “apnoia,” which translates to “without breath.” While there are three official types of sleep apnea, the most common form is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Even though there are slight differences, children (like adults) can suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Pediatric OSA happens when the child’s soft tissues collapse and block the upper airway. Consequently, breathing stops for a moment. After a brief awakening that forces the sufferer to reopen their airway, breathing recommences.

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Common Causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

When we sleep, the muscles throughout the body naturally relax. From your muscles in your toes to the muscles that keep our airways open, unconsciously relaxing too much can cause the upper airway to collapse on itself, posing a breathing challenge.

Besides physical blockage of the airway, other known risk factors of OSA are:

  • Being overweight
  • Family history
  • Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
  • Facial or skull deformities
  • Neuromuscular disorders
  • Certain medical conditions, like down syndrome

Consequences of Untreated OSA

Children and infants who suffer from OSA don’t always snore, but their sleep is still disturbed. In severe cases of OSA, these pauses in breathing can disrupt sleep once every minute. Even in one night, the repetitive interrupting of healthy breathing leads to a drop in oxygen levels in the blood—which can lead to long-term consequences, such as:

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  • Attention deficits
  • Low-energy levels
  • Hyperactivity
  • Behavioral and learning problems
  • Poor academic performance and social life
  • Weight gain
  • Bed-wetting
  • Night terrors
  • Nighttime sweating
  • Mouth breathing
  • Bruxism (unconscious teeth grinding and jaw clenching)

Rule Out Sleep Apnea with At-Home Screening

Are you worried that your child isn’t getting enough quality sleep? If so, Dr. Rashed can rule out sleep apnea with a sleep study conducted in the comfort of your own home.

Get a Better Night’s Sleep with Nightguards

If you know someone with sleep apnea, you might envision sleep apnea treatment as a loud, bulky CPAP machine. However, Dr. Rashed prefers starting with more affordable, minimally invasive dentistry before referring you to a specialist for more intensive treatment. She can prescribe a custom-fitted dental nightguard to adjust your child’s jaw alignment to help them breathe through the night.

In addition to this feature, a sleep mouth guard can serve as a bruxism treatment and lessen the destructive aftermaths of habitual teeth clenching, such as TMJ disorder, enamel erosion, and cracked teeth.