Thousand Oaks, Agoura Hills and Westlake Village, CA
What do you think of when you picture someone with obstructive sleep apnea? You may envision someone who is older, overweight or both. The reality is that sleep apnea can affect any individual of any age, including young children. And just like an adult who develops this sleep breathing disorder, a child with sleep apnea faces serious risks to their physical and mental well-being that eventually could threaten his or her life! Sleep apnea dentists in Agoura Hills like the ones on staff at Integrative Dental Arts have the training and experience to treat sleep apnea in everyone, children included.
For many children, sleep apnea starts with mouth breathing
Unless your child has a respiratory condition like asthma or another type of illness, you might have never paid attention to the way he or she breathes. If you notice your child breathing regularly through the mouth, whether awake or asleep, then this can be an indicator of a problem. When a child breathes through the mouth, this results in a gulping of more air than is needed that actually results in less oxygenation.
Mouth breathing can impact the development of the face and jaws in a child, especially if it occurs during the crucial stage of significant growth. The list of potential consequences of frequently breathing through the mouth includes having narrower dental arches, as well as a restrictive airway, which may result in sleep apnea. For a child, even a small amount of restriction in the airway can make it more difficult to stay asleep. A patient with sleep apnea may experience these airway restrictions or obstructions throughout the night, either impeding the ability to breathe or totally disrupting the flow of air. A child with a severe case of sleep apnea may experience a disturbance in their rest 30 or more times per hour—that’s once every two minutes!
Treating sleep apnea in children
A sleep apnea dentist has the knowledge and experience to resolve cases of sleep apnea by addressing the root of the problem, which means they focus on whatever is impeding the airway. In children, nonfunctional therapy can be an optimum method for treating sleep apnea or any other type of sleep breathing disorders. Myofunctional therapy consists of performing exercises that work the muscles of the mouth and tongue. A course of myofunctional therapy can strengthen these muscles and encourage nasal breathing. Or, myofunctional therapy could help achieve the ideal oral resting posture—with lips closed, teeth closed, and the tongue resting gently against the upper palate. Not only does this oral resting posture encourage breathing through the nose, which greatly reduces the likelihood of snoring, but it also will make sure there is enough room in your mouth to accommodate the tongue when the mouth is at rest.
Oral appliance therapy is the preferred method of treatment for dentists who work with sleep apnea patients. This entails wearing a mouthpiece that looks similar to an anti-snoring guard. When worn during sleep, this appliance guides the lower jaw forward into the preferred resting position, creating more room for the tongue in the mouth and also helping to maintain an open airway throughout the night.
Treating sleep apnea is so important
No matter how old the patient is, sleep apnea is a serious medical condition. More than 20 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea and it is estimated that between 1 and 4 percent of children in the United States have some form of this sleep breathing disorder. Symptoms include snoring and regular fatigue during the day. Children with sleep apnea also often manifest symptoms that mimic ADD and ADHD. If you are noticing some combination of these issues in your child, and sleep apnea is the real cause, they will not go away until the airway issue that is the actual culprit is resolved. Schedule a consultation to be screened for sleep apnea by calling (818) 889-0400.
Integrative Dental Arts provides oral health care with a holistic approach for patients in the Agoura Hills and Westlake Village communities of southern California.