Pediatric Sleep-Disordered Breathing | Diagnosis & Treatment

Pediatric Sleep-Disordered Breathing in Los Angeles, CA

Diagnosis and treatment of pediatric sleep-disordered breathing in Los Angeles, CA, can help parents to understand tell-tale signs and symptoms of poor sleep and impaired breathing in their children and to take positive steps to improve their children’s health and wellbeing. Finding a pediatric oral health specialist with advanced training and tools for assessing sleep and breathing issues is often the first step to addressing health and behavioral issues, such as excessive daytime sleepiness, irritability, hyperactivity, and learning difficulties.

Causes & Concerns

The term sleep-disordered breathing refers to the disruption of normal, restful sleep due to impaired breathing. Most people associate sleep disorders with the condition known as sleep apnea, which is caused by abnormal relaxation of muscles in the airway during sleep. However, sleep-disordered breathing refers to a broader range of potentially unhealthful conditions of the oral cavity and airway, leading to unrestful and unhealthy sleep. While sleep apnea is one such condition, others include a narrow palate, small dental arches, and an anatomically constricted airway.

Pediatric dental specialists are trained to assess anatomical and functional conditions that may contribute to restriction of the airway and less than optimal airflow and breathing. Sometimes, these conditions exist at all times of day but become more problematic during sleep. This may be due to postures and head positions only assumed during sleep (that is, when not standing or physically active), or there may be other factors at play.

Impaired breathing during sleep is not healthful and, if left unaddressed, can negatively impact childhood development and performance and lead to permanent health effects in adulthood.

Diagnosis of Sleep-Disordered Breathing

Typically, the diagnosis of disordered sleep breathing is the result of observation and reports by parents and professional assessment by pediatric specialists. It is quite common that a pediatric dentist will receive a referral for potential problems from a speech pathologist or occupational therapist who may notice certain characteristic signs and symptoms that require follow-up.

The pediatric oral care specialist takes a health report and conducts a physical and functional exam, focusing on the oral cavity and airway and other factors, such as facial appearance and head & neck posture. A more detailed examination may include airway imaging and referral to a pediatrician or ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT) or sleep specialist.

The important point to emphasize is that diagnosing sleep-disordered breathing (including the possibility of sleep apnea) usually draws upon the expertise of more than one specialist.

Treating Sleep-Disordered Breathing in Children

Ideally, treating sleep-disordered breathing involves a multidisciplinary approach, combining the knowledge and resources of a team. Some conditions may be treated adequately by the dental specialist through an in-office procedure or with the prescribing of an oral appliance. Sometimes, a medical or surgical approach may be indicated, which may require referral. In many cases, it is also helpful to include ongoing functional therapy with an oral-myofunctional therapist, speech pathologist, and cranio-osteopath to reinforce positive behaviors in the treated child and ensure durable results.

If your child is not getting restful sleep or is showing signs or behaviors (at home, at school, at play) that suggest possible problems with normal, unobstructed breathing, speak to your pediatric oral health specialist or pediatrician.

Biological Dentistry: The Bigger Picture of Dental Health

Biological Dentistry - The Bigger Picture of Dental Health

Dentistry is constantly changing as new techniques, tools, procedures, and practices are implemented in the field. Today’s dentists are trained and equipped as never before to diagnose and treat dental conditions that can impact overall patient health, not only during childhood development but throughout life.

As usual, the focus of this blog post is on patient education. In this blog from the clinic of Hila Robbins, DMD, Inc., we will look at what you can expect from a biological dentist in Los Angeles, CA, versus what we all used to consider as “traditional dentistry.”

Traditionally, dentists were trained to treat the teeth and gums. Today’s dentists, especially those practicing biological dentistry, consider the entire clinical picture of the patient, thanks to ever-expanding knowledge and understanding of how the health of the teeth, gums, and oral cavity (all within the traditional scope of dentistry) interact with the rest of the body, either as a contributing cause, or a possible result of other, traditionally “non-dental” health issues. Today, taking a more comprehensive, biological view (as opposed to the more structural and anatomical approach of traditional dentistry, we know that dental and oral health can impact the health of the cardiovascular system, the immune system, the airway, breathing, and sleep, and more. You might say that today’s biological dentists focus on the big picture—not just the teeth and gums.

Consider, for example, the image at the top of this blog post. What you see is the result of a digital imaging procedure known as CBCT or Cone Beam Computed Tomography. The image presents a computer-generated, three-dimensional (volumetric, not flat) rendering of the cranium (the head) of a child. Using imaging software that combines radiology plus computer graphics capabilities, a properly equipped dentist, such as Dr. Robbins, can see the 3-D anatomy of the entire cranium, including the teeth, jaw, facial bones, bones of the skull, the airway (nasal cavity, throat, trachea), and more. Using imaging software, the dentist can “rotate” the CBCT image in space, look “inside” the image to view anatomy that may otherwise be obscured, and “slice” the 3-D image into discrete sections, from the front, sides, top, and bottom, or anyplace in between.

In plain English, today’s dentist can really see what’s going on, which can help with pinpointing the cause of a particular condition or symptom, to indicate the best treatment, and “predict” likely outcomes.

Using advanced tools, such as CBCT imaging, the biological dentist is able to see the bigger picture of the dental patient’s health, considering the whole body, with the goal to make more accurate and comprehensive diagnoses and offering more personalized treatment plans to patients.

Biological dentistry, as an example, focuses not just
on dental health but also on the patient’s entire physical and emotional wellness. These dentists prevent and treat oral disease by using natural therapies.