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Posts for: April, 2015

SleepApneaandBehavioralProblemsinChildrenHowYourDentistCanHelp

We all know how much better we feel after a good night’s sleep: refreshed, energized and ready to handle — even excel at — our day-to-day responsibilities. Yet millions of people, young and old, are robbed of a good night’s rest by sleep-related breathing disorders such as sleep apnea, in which the soft tissues in the back of the throat block the airway during sleep. This temporarily disrupts airflow, causing numerous “micro-arousals” (sleep interruptions) that we may not even be aware of. A lack of sleep can make us drowsy, irritable and unfocused. In children, these typical symptoms of sleep apnea can lead to mistaken diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The relationship between sleep apnea and behavioral problems has been highlighted in several recent scientific journal articles, including a major study published several years ago in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The lead author, Dr. Karen Bonuck, said at the time: “We found that children with sleep-disordered breathing were from 40 to 100 percent more likely to develop neurobehavioral problems by age 7, compared with children without breathing problems. The biggest increase was in hyperactivity, but we saw significant increases across [other] behavioral measures.” Therefore, an accurate diagnosis of a child’s behavioral problems — leading to the right treatment — is crucial. While sleep apnea must be diagnosed by a physician, treatment for the condition is often provided by a dentist.

What can be done for children suffering from sleep apnea? The most common treatment is surgical removal of the tonsils or adenoids. This treatment can sometimes be performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, a dentist who has received several years of post-graduate surgical training. There are several other procedures oral surgeons can perform to open the airway, depending on what anatomical structures are blocking it.

Sometimes a child with sleep apnea can benefit from a procedure to expand the palate (roof of the mouth) to enlarge the airway. This is not a surgical treatment but rather an orthodontic one. An orthodontist (a dentist who specializes in moving teeth) will fit the child with a palatal expander, a butterfly-shaped device that gradually separates the two bones that form the upper jaw and roof of the mouth. This is often done to prevent crowding of teeth and other bite problems, but has been shown in some cases to improve airflow.

There is another dental approach used to treat adults and older children, whose jaw growth is complete. It’s called oral appliance therapy, and it involves wearing a custom-made device during sleep that resembles a sports mouthguard or orthodontic retainer. An oral appliance can maintain an opened, unobstructed, upper airway during sleep in various ways, including: repositioning the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and uvula; stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue; increasing the muscle tone of the tongue.

If your child has been diagnosed with sleep apnea, we can help you find the best treatment approach. For more information, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Sleep Disorders & Dentistry” and “Snoring & Sleep Apnea.”


ChildStarNolanGouldTalksAboutToothExtractionsOrthodonticTreatment

Nolan Gould of the hit TV show Modern Family has an uncommon gift for comedy, but he also has a very common orthodontic problem: too many teeth for the size of his mouth, which often results in “crowding.”

“My teeth used to be pretty messed up,” Nolan recently told Dear Doctor magazine in an exclusive interview. “I had two extra teeth when I was born. They hadn't come out (erupted) yet. And all the other teeth that were already there were starting to point backwards because it was getting so crowded in my mouth. They had to remove those two (extra) teeth,” he said.

Although being born with extra teeth is somewhat unusual, needing to have teeth extracted for orthodontic reasons is not. In fact, orthodontic treatment often involves removing teeth to relieve crowding. It makes sense when you think about it: When there are too many teeth for the size of the dental arches (upper and/or lower jaws) or the teeth are larger in size than the dental arch can accommodate, there may not be enough space to align them properly. The necessary space can be created by removing teeth.

The teeth most frequently extracted for orthodontic reasons are the first bicuspid teeth. These are the ones right between the cuspid, or eyeteeth (under the eyes) and the molars (biggest back teeth). Once there is enough space, the orthodontist can choose from a variety of orthodontic appliances to align the teeth, depending on the specific needs of the individual.

In Nolan's case, it was the extra two teeth he was born with that were removed. Afterwards, the young actor's orthodontist was able to shift Nolan's remaining teeth into proper alignment using orthodontic appliances called Crozats. Made of metal wires, Crozats go around the back teeth and behind the front teeth, making them virtually invisible.

“You can remove them, which is really good for acting, especially because you can't see them,” Nolan explained. “I can wear them 24/7 and nobody will ever notice.”

Nolan's orthodontic appliances may not be noticeable, but his fabulous smile certainly is!

If you would like to learn more about improving tooth alignment with orthodontics, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. If you would like to read Dear Doctor's entire interview with Nolan Gould, please see “Nolan Gould.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Tooth Removal for Orthodontic Reasons.”




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