What Your Child’s Sleeping Habits May Be Telling You

It’s easy to misinterpret certain types of sleep behavior in children as simple signs of deep sleep or dreaming. A little snoring or minor limb movement on occasion are certainly nothing to worry about, but when your child begins to snore chronically, breathe irregularly, or thrash physically during sleep, it may be time to consider whether or not he or she might have some form of sleep disordered breathing.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is one of the most common forms of sleep disordered breathing in adults, but children can also suffer from it – especially when there are other contributing factors present like excessive weight, chronic allergies, or specific jaw and bite alignment issues. Unfortunately all of these conditions can be intricately interrelated, sometimes making it difficult for a parent and a medical provider to successfully treat the OSA completely without addressing multiple factors at once.

What makes OSA so serious for both children and adults is that in its most severe form, it can be fatal. Thankfully, those cases are still extremely rare. However, medical research is now demonstrating that OSA and other types of sleep disorders in children and adults can manifest daytime symptoms that mimic mild to moderate forms of ADD and ADHD. Mistreating these cases with ADHD medication (typically stimulants) is dangerous on two levels: Your child could potentially be taking medication he or she does not need; and he or she could still have an underlying sleep disorder that remains unaddressed and potentially even exacerbated by the medication. 1

This month, I’ve added a new resource to The Airway Series that expands and explains these important issues in discovering and treating breathing and airway development issues in children. It is my hope that eventually all children will be screened for the underlying conditions that can lead to OSA, and that preventive measures like functional orthodontic treatment, healthy eating, and plenty of exercise are pursued before the pathological conditions related to OSA ever have a chance to develop.

As always, I encourage you to share this material as much as possible with your friends and family, and to bring any questions you may have about your own children with you to your next regularly scheduled appointment.

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Does Short-Term Orthodontic Correction Actually Work?

The short answer to that question is yes. But the more important question to ask about short-term orthodontic treatment is not whether or not it works, but whether or not it will work for you. Of course we’d all like to have a beautiful smile with the least amount of treatment as possible, and many of the advertised orthodontic systems on the market today seem to promise better results in a fraction of the time. But the truth is that if you need significant correction, and/or you have pain in your jaw joints and facial muscles related to your bite, short-term orthodontics probably won’t work for you.

In my own practice, I’ve been providing functional and cosmetic orthodontic treatment to my patients for more than 25 years. I use traditional braces, functional appliances, clear aligner systems like Invisalign and Clear Correct, as well as accelerated bracket-based systems like Express Smiles. No matter which system I use, I always approach an orthodontic treatment plan from the standpoint of what will be best for my patient’s overall health.

If cavities or gum disease are a problem, then it may not be wise to pursue any kind of orthodontic correction until those conditions are under control. Muscle and joint function are also extremely important to consider when planning orthodontic treatment. Bite-related TMJ disorders can be greatly improved with the right orthodontic correction, but they can also be worsened if muscle and joint function are not considered prior to beginning treatment.

Different orthodontic systems also offer different advantages and disadvantages in overall results, patient comfort, and treatment time. Faster isn’t always better. For patients who require only minor orthodontic correction, a four- or six- month treatment system can be very successful. But there is a limit to how quickly we can move the teeth through the jaw bone before damage to the roots can occur. Patients who require significant correction will spend far less time in treatment in the long run by pursuing a longer course of orthodontic care from the beginning. We also see beautiful results when starting with children early to work with their growth and development.

The good news is that with the proper planning and consideration of your specific needs, orthodontic correction to achieve a beautiful smile is a viable option to almost anyone of any age. The most important aspect of choosing an orthodontic treatment option should never be solely focused on how long the treatment might take, but more importantly on whether or not your individual concerns, goals, and pre-existing health conditions have all been taken into account.

For more information on the pros and cons of long-term and short-term orthodontic care, please visit our newest resource Short-Term vs. Long-Term Orthodontics. And of course, if you are a current patient of mine, please feel free to ask for more information in person at any of your upcoming appointments.

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