Parents often comment they hear their child grind their teeth at night. Teeth grinding in children seldom has anything to do with the process of shedding baby teeth, but maybe an indicator that your child is struggling to maintain a clear airway to breathe at night. Paediatric Sleep Breathing Disorders are a serious problem which can range from primary snoring to obstructive sleep apnoea, in which your child stops breathing altogether for extended periods of time. Teeth grinding during sleep is often accompanied with snoring and backwards extension of their neck as they sleep.
A decrease in air flow and oxygen to their brain can cause symptoms such as daytime tiredness, moody behaviour and poor academic performance at school. Many of these children get misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), when all they are suffering from is over tiredness due to not enough oxygen to the brain.
Dentists are often the first health professionals to notice enlarged adenoids and tonsils in children while we are looking into their mouths. This can often be associated with unusual teeth crowding, cross bites, increased dental decay and red gums due to mouth breathing, as well as other mouth problems such as tongue ties. When we see these signs, we will encourage your child to have an assessment with a Specialist Paediatric Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Surgeon, who can check any “plumbing issues” with your child’s airway. This assessment often reveals undiagnosed nasal allergies blocking their airways, which can be managed with nasal sprays, but in severely blocked airways your ENT surgeon may suggest the removal of your child’s adenoids and/or tonsils if appropriate.
Working closely with our medical colleagues ensures your child has the best chances of developing a normal face and normal brain. We encourage parents in children with suspected sleep breathing disorders to view an excellent website by Dr Gillian Dunlop (Specialist Consultant Paediatric ENT Surgeon, Sydney) who explains the link between dental development and ENT problems in her short videos.
Please contact our practice for your child’s dental airway assessment today.