A Parent’s Guide to Sleep Disordered Breathing


October 31, 2022

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I'm a functional + airway dentist helping mamas get back to the basics for achieving oral and overall health for their families. I'm sharing my best tips and advice for simple, joyful health right here on my blog. It's all in the name of good motherhood.
Hi! I'm Dr. Molly.

I’m going to cut right to the chase (because there’s a lot of ground to cover on this topic).

As a whole, our children are not sleeping and breathing well.

And you might be thinking to yourself, “But Dr. Molly– I would totally know if my child wasn’t sleeping or breathing well!”

Because that’s what most parents say to me when I tell them I’ll be screening their child for airway and sleep disruptions during their routine dental exam. Similarly, most parents are blown away when I accurately assume their child exhibits one or more of the symptoms of Sleep Disordered Breathing.

Sleep Disordered Breathing is a common yet abnormal condition in which a person’s oxygen levels dip while sleeping, leading to very poor quality sleep. This dip in oxygen occurs because one or more root causes of sleep disordered breathing is present: mouth breathing, improper tooth position, oral habits like thumb-sucking or pacifier use, improper tongue position, or a vaulted roof of the mouth.

Your body reacts as if it is choking, leading to lower oxygen levels, and a host of symptoms that generally cause your whole body to suffer.

And it’s all happening in children.

It’s estimated that nine out of ten children exhibit at least one symptom of sleep disordered breathing. These symptoms don’t always manifest as a sleep or breathing problem, which makes this disorder a silent, yet serious, epidemic.

Some of the most common symptoms of sleep disordered breathing include:

  • Snoring
  • Teeth grinding
  • Mouth breathing during day or night
  • Nighttime bed wetting
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Inability to focus or sit still
  • Night terrors
  • Frequent night waking
  • Sleep walking or talking

And while sleep issues can be multi-factorial– exposure to blue light emitted from screens, processed foods and artificial dyes, etc.– more often than not, sleep disordered breathing stems from one of more root causes:

  • Mouth breathing
  • Oral habits like thumb sucking or pacifier use
  • Improper tooth positioning
  • Improper tongue positioning
  • High, vaulted palate

Now that we’ve identified the problem and its possible root causes… what’s a parent to do next?! That one is easy! Get your kids to an airway-focused or functional dentist. You can use the HealthyStart dentist locator here (more on HealthyStart in an upcoming blog post!) or good old Google. I have patients travel several hours to have their child evaluated, because they understand– sleep is imperative to health, and health is the best gift you can give your child.

So much more to come on the signs and symptoms of sleep disordered breathing, using the HealthyStart system to correct it, and how to prepare your child for a lifetime of health by making sleep a priority!

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