Better Oral Health = Better Sleep
Sleep may be the most important part of a child’s day. For the body to rest and the brain to recharge, a typical child aged five to twelve should get 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night. Without restorative sleep, a child may be cranky, clumsy and less attentive than usual the next day. If the pattern persists, his or her growth and resistance to immunity can be affected, too.
Oral conditions can affect sleep more severely than you might imagine. One, obstructive sleep apnea, is caused by enlarged adenoids or tonsils (which can be surgically removed if necessary); allergies (treatable with nasal steroids or other medications); and/or obesity (for which weight management is recommended). Symptoms include gasping during sleep and snoring marked by occasional pauses. Without treatment, obstructive sleep apnea can lead to developmental and learning delays, behavior issues, daytime fatigue or hyperactivity.
Sleep bruxism affects 20% to 30% of children at one time or another, although most children outgrow it. Bruxism involves teeth-grinding or jaw-clenching. Often, a child is not aware of grinding his or her teeth; the child only knows that he or she awakes with jaw or head pain and possibly a feeling of fatigue. Evidence of bruxism includes chipped tooth enamel and unusually worn surfaces.
One common cause of bruxism is the misalignment of the upper and lower teeth, which can be treated appropriately with orthodontia. Another cause, though, is emotional stress, which needs to be addressed in order to be alleviated. In any case, a night guard—a custom-molded plastic device that fits in the mouth—may help prevent permanent damage.
Finally, the pain of untreated tooth decay can seriously affect a child’s sleep. According to the California Society of Pediatric Dentistry, “Failure to identify and prevent dental disease has consequential and costly long-term adverse effects….Untreated dental disease compromises the child’s ability to eat well, sleep well, and function well at home and at school.”
If you notice that your child’s sleeping habits are unusual, let us know so we can examine his or her oral health. This no time for a parent to snooze on the job!