Early Childhood Caries and Sleep Disorders

Early Childhood Caries and Sleep Disorders

Having healthy, strong teeth is important at any age. But they are even more important for children. This is because the primary teeth act as placeholders for the child's permanent teeth. If a child has an unhealthy primary set of teeth, it can lead to developmental problems.

What Is Early Childhood Caries?

Early Childhood Caries, also known as baby bottle tooth decay or nursing caries, is a common condition that affects infants and toddlers. The effects of early childhood caries can last a lifetime if left untreated. Early childhood caries is caused by frequent exposure to sugary liquids like breast milk, formula, fruit juices, and sodas. Bacteria in the mouth thrive on these sugars and produces an acid that eats away at the enamel of teeth. This decay can lead to painful infections in the gums and can sometimes affect the underlying structures of the teeth. This is why it is important to seek treatment at the first sign of infection in your child's mouth!

What Are Sleep-disordered Breathing (SDB) Disorders?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder caused by a blocked airway. It's characterized by brief interruptions in breathing during sleep, potentially several times a night. These disruptions are called apneas—the individual episodes can last from a few seconds to minutes. People with untreated obstructive sleep apnea can have hundreds of apneas each night and wake up feeling exhausted in the morning. The condition can also cause loud snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Over half of the children with SDB have some form of ADHD or ADD diagnosis. Children with chronic OSA are at risk for hyperactivity, decreased attention, learning problems, and more. They are also at risk for behavioral issues, including anger and aggression.

It is important to monitor your child's oral health regularly to detect any warning signs of SDB as early as possible. In addition to visiting the dentist every six months for regular checkups, you should be on the lookout if your child experiences:

  • any of the following symptoms: dry mouth, sore throat, morning headaches, insomnia, ear infections, slowed growth, difficulty concentrating, bedwetting;
  • any of the symptoms of ADHD and ADD: impulsive behavior, trouble focusing, lack of attention, moodiness, irritability, easy frustration, impatience, emotional outbursts, hyperactivity, restlessness, frequent talking, inability to sit still forgetfulness;
  • enlarged tonsils or adenoids; and/or
  • if you suspect your child is having difficulty breathing at night, such as gasping or choking noises, pauses in breathing lasting over ten seconds, disrupted sleep, changes in energy level, etc.

Are SDB Disorders and Early Childhood Caries Related?

Unfortunately, yes. Both sleep and oral health conditions affect children throughout their development. The relationship between childhood sleep disorders and tooth decay has been researched extensively to establish correlations between the two conditions. For instance, researchers have shown that children who snore frequently have an increased risk of developing cavities. Furthermore, children with sleep apnea are at a higher risk of developing gingivitis. Still, the exact mechanisms linking mouth breathing and SDB have not yet been identified.

However, both conditions are related in that they can have a detrimental effect on a child's health and development. When a child suffers from chronic snoring or obstructive breathing, they may experience daytime fatigue, irritability, and decreased cognitive functioning. These effects can affect a child's ability to perform well in school and can negatively impact their ability to make friends. It can also impact their mental and emotional health, making them more predisposed to experiencing depression and anxiety.

These issues are also exacerbated by the fact that children are at an increased risk for nighttime bruxism when suffering from SDB, which can lead to painful tooth damage. Additionally, the oral bacteria that cause decay can be transferred to other parts of the body and lead to systemic infections and even diabetes.

While these problems are concerning to both patients and doctors, treatment options are available for both SDB and childhood tooth decay. The first step towards treatment is diagnosing the child's condition. If you suspect that your child may have SDB, talk to a pediatric dentist about a referral to a physician specializing in sleep medicine. 

Aurora Children's Dentistry, located in Anchorage, AK, offers the best dental care services to patients with the help of modern technologies and expert dentists. Dial (907) 336-1234 and schedule an appointment with our dentist to learn more about dental care services and receive a complete dental checkup. 

Visit Our Office

Anchorage, AK

3340 Providence Dr Suite #A552, Anchorage, AK 99508

Email: office@aurorachildren.com

Book Now

Office Hours

  • Monday8:00 am - 4:30 pm
  • Tuesday8:00 am - 4:30 pm
  • Wednesday8:00 am - 4:30 pm
  • Thursday8:00 am - 4:30 pm
  • FridayClosed
  • SaturdayClosed
  • SundayClosed
  Our Location
Online Forms