Dentists Help Children Sleep Better

Sleep disordered breathing in children

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Sleep-disordered breathing is often associated with excess body fat in adults. However, when these issues are present in children, they may have more to do with the dentist than the dietician.

A recent study estimated that 10 percent of children have issues with sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), and that the risk was higher when the children had "abnormal craniofacial morphology" – which relates to factors like dental structure, facial shape and the tonsils.

"Visit a dentist if you have problems sleeping. "

Led by Tiina Ikävalko, from the Kuopio University Hospital in Finland, the study looked at 491 Finnish children between the ages of 6 to 8 years old. Body fat percentage for these children was determined, and the participants were evaluated by an orthodontist. Parents helped complete questionnaires recording sleep.

According to the authors, “SDB was defined as apnoeas, frequent or loud snoring or nocturnal mouth breathing observed by the parents.” SDBs were found to occur in 9.9 percent of the participants.

Body fat and the orthodontic evaluation were analyzed and according to the authors, “Abnormal craniofacial morphology, but not excess body fat, is associated with an increased risk of having SDB in 6- to 8-year-old children.” Participants with tonsillar hypertrophy (enlarged tonsils) had a 3.7 times higher risk of SDB than their counterparts with normal-sized tonsils.

Additionally, the risk was 3.3 times higher in those with crossbite (the lower and upper jaws are not aligned), and 2.6 times higher in those with a convex facial profile (a face shape with a receding chin and forehead) than their peers without these facial and dental shapes.

"If a child has symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing, his or her craniofacial status and dental occlusion need to be examined,” said Ikävalko.

“On the other hand, children with tonsillar hypertrophy, crossbite and convex facial profile should be examined to assess the quality of their sleep.”

Intervening with these issues while patients are young may help prevent further problems as they age.

The study was published online in July 2012 in the European Journal of Pediatrics and was a part of the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) Study from the University of Eastern Finland. No conflicts of interest were reported. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 21, 2012
Last Updated:
December 28, 2012