What to be aware of if your child snores

Recognizing Potential Issues Caused by Snoring

In all honesty, it’s adorable when a little kid snores. Just a simple Google search will bring up dozens of videos from parents sharing cute moments of their children snoozing loudly in the car or on the couch. Snoring isn’t all that uncommon for children, and many grow out of it as they age, but it’s wise to be aware of your child’s snoring and how it may affect them.

Chronic mouth breathing or snoring can lead to oral health issues, and it may be a sign of a larger issue like sleep apnea. To help you better understand these issues and how they may affect your child, we’ve put together a guide on childhood snoring and pediatric sleep apnea.

What causes mouth breathing and snoring in young children?

Mouth breathing has several causes, but two of the most common causes are allergies and enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Thankfully, allergies are easily managed and children often grow out of enlarged tonsils. Even if your child needs intervention for their enlarged tonsils, the treatment is usually relatively straightforward. Depending on how severe it is, a lip or tongue tie can also cause mouth breathing by restricting the movement of your child’s lip or tongue and keeping their airway from being as open as it should be.

Another potential cause is a high palate, which is when the roof of your child’s mouth is unusually high and narrow. Since the roof of your child’s mouth is also the floor of their nasal cavity, having a high palate takes space away from the nasal cavity. This makes breathing through their nose more difficult for your child and can lead to mouth breathing and snoring even without the presence of allergies. Thankfully, your child’s pediatric dentist can help treat issues like lip or tongue ties and high palates to allow your child to breathe easier.

What complications can mouth breathing and snoring lead to?

When it’s a regular issue, mouth breathing can lead to a number of complications. Breathing through your mouth circumvents the natural filtering system in the nose, which is meant to keep out viruses and harmful bacteria. As a result, your child is more likely to suffer from upper respiratory issues if they’re mouth breathing regularly. Extended mouth breathing also dries their mouth out, which actually increases your child’s risk of getting tooth decay or gum disease. This is because saliva plays a crucial role in fighting harmful oral bacteria.

Mouth breathing can also lead to teeth grinding, an irregular bite, poor facial development, sleep disorders, and slow growth or poor weight gain. Your child needs a lot of sleep, and it’s during sleep that their body produces growth hormone. If they’re not sleeping enough, they’re often not producing enough growth hormone, either, which can cause them to not grow as quickly as other children their age. Thankfully, discovering and addressing the direct cause of your child’s mouth breathing and treating any sleep disorders they may have can reduce or eliminate these issues, giving your child newfound energy and helping them to thrive!

What are the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea in children?

If your child has sleep apnea, there are several signs and symptoms you may notice both at night and during the day. Snoring is the best-known sign, but not every child who snores has sleep apnea. Your child may sleep restlessly and may suffer from nightmares, night sweats, and bedwetting. If you pay attention, you may also notice that your child’s breathing pauses occasionally or that they make snorting, coughing, or choking sounds in their sleep.

Since sleep apnea disrupts your little one’s sleep patterns and prevents them from getting deep, restful sleep, two of the major daytime symptoms are fatigue and difficulty concentrating. This can lead to a myriad of issues, including behavioral issues, difficulty paying attention, and poor grades, all of which can impact their performance in school and make it difficult for them to learn even if they’re trying. The lack of sleep can also cause your child to have trouble gaining weight or growing to the size they should be at their age. Oddly enough, despite the way sleep apnea affects sleeping patterns, it can also cause some children to become hyperactive.

What treatments can a pediatric dentist perform to improve my child’s breathing/snoring?

Pediatric dentists can perform a lip and tongue tie evaluation to determine if a lip or tongue tie is causing your child’s difficulty breathing through their nose. If it is, Dr. Mo or Dr. G can perform a quick, easy procedure using state-of-the-art dental lasers to resolve your child’s lip or tongue tie. This should resolve the issue, making it easier for your child to breathe and to perform other tasks like sticking their tongue out or using it to reach their back teeth, eating, or speaking.

While a high palate might sound like a permanent issue, it’s actually not! Your child’s face and jaws are still growing, including their palate. While an adult’s palate is a single piece, a child’s palate is actually made of up two plates of bone that eventually fuse together when they’re done growing. Amazingly, this means that modern pediatric dentistry can treat your child’s high palate by using palate expanders to actively change its shape. Palate expanders work much like braces, applying gentle pressure to the palate. Over time, this slowly separates the two plates that make it up. The bone grows to bridge the gap, permanently widening their palate and helping your child to breathe more easily. How long this treatment takes depends on your child’s individual case, but your child’s dentist can give you an estimate during their orthodontic evaluation. If you are a patient here, Dr. Mo will discuss a time estimate with you when presenting you with her recommendations.

It’s certainly adorable when your child is snoring and seemingly oblivious to the world. Plus, it makes for a great family video that they’ll find embarrassing in a few years! But if your child snores often, it’s important to watch out for the oral health issues that mouth breathing can cause and to make sure there are no underlying issues causing them to snore.

If you’d like your Vancouver, WA dentist to determine the root cause of your child’s snoring, feel free to schedule a consultation with Dr. Mo or Dr. G at any time.