Per the 2017 position statement, dentists are encouraged to screen patients for sleep related breathing disorders as part of a comprehensive medical and dental history. Screening helps to identify symptoms of deficient growth and development, and/or other risk factors that may lead to airway issues. If sleep related breathing is determined, intervention is warranted.
Sleep disordered breathing is an umbrella term that encompasses breathing difficulties that occur during sleep. It can include anything from mouth breathing to snoring to obstructive sleep apnea. It is of utmost importance to diagnose sleep disordered breathing as early as possible in the growing and developing child in order to help prevent any behavioral issues associated with disordered sleeping patterns.
Children with sleep disordered breathing have an “airway issue.” The airway is what brings oxygen into the body through the nose and transports it to the lungs. If there is any type of blockage along the passage especially during hours of rest, problems can arise causing lack of quality deep sleep.
When the child’s breathing is disrupted during sleep, the body feels like the child is choking. What happens systemically? The heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, the brain is aroused, and the quality of sleep is disrupted. The child may not awake fully but may have sleep fragmentation or constantly be in a state of fight or flight.