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The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that sleep problems affect 25%–50% of children and 40% of adolescents.4 A 2012 study, conducted by Dr. Karen Bonuck, revealed that children with sleep-related breathing disorders were from 40%–100% more likely to develop neurobehavioral problems by age 7, compared with children without breathing problems.5 Parents were asked to fill out a strengths and difficulties questionnaire to assess a child’s hyperactivity, emotional symptoms, peer problems, conduct problems, and prosocial behavior.

Researchers believe that sleep-related breathing disorders could cause behavioral issues by “affecting the brain in several ways: decreasing oxygen levels and increasing carbon dioxide levels in the prefrontal cortex; and interrupting the restorative processes of sleep.”5 As a result, children struggle with executive functioning (skills such as planning, goal-setting, self-control, and focus during distraction) and the ability to self-regulate.6

A sleep screening tool

If your dental office’s medical history lacks sleep-related inquiries, I recommend a discussion with your team to incorporate such questions. There is also the pediatric sleep questionnaire (PSQ) that can be given separately. The PSQ is a valid and reliable sleep screening tool that contains 22 symptom items that ask about snoring frequency, loud snoring, observed apneas, difficulty breathing during sleep, daytime sleepiness, inattentive or hyperactive behavior, and other pediatric OSA features. Furthermore, it can be used when polysomnography (a type of sleep study) is not feasible.5

Questions to ask your patients

Consider including these questions on your medical history intake forms:

  • Does your child snore?
  • Are there witnessed apneas?
  • Does your child toss and turn?
  • Does your child grind their teeth?
  • Does your child sleep talk, sleepwalk, or have night terrors?
  • Does your child sleep in strange positions?
  • Does your child frequently wet the bed?
  • Does your child breathe through their mouth?

By asking these simple questions, we can initiate potentially lifesaving conversations with our patients. Not all families may be ready to act at that very moment, but you are certainly providing information for further thought and observation. It may be surprising at the six-month recare appointment how many families return and mention they had discussions with their pediatrician or ENT physician regarding a more thorough investigation.

Do you think you may suffer from Sleep Issues and live in Florida, California or New York?

If so, please consider scheduling a proper virtual online Sleep Disorder and Anxiety diagnosis with one of our physicians. Although we have an online ADHD and Anxiety diagnosis tool, a proper diagnosis from a Board-Certified Medical Doctor will help you know for sure. If appropriate, a customized treatment program will be recommended at the conclusion of that initial visit.

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