Children And Sleep Disordered Breathing

Little girl smiling showing white teeth

One of the things that I assess during every examination of our young patients is their breathing. I call it an ‘airway exam’. At Tansley Woods Dentistry, I have a series of pertinent questions that I ask the parents in order to assess their child’s breathing when they sleep. I usually get a blank stare, as I know they are thinking, ‘What does breathing have to do with my kid’s teeth?’

Well, breathing is crucial but breathing the right way when your child sleeps is important, especially when they are young.

Nasal breathing, breathing through your nose, is optimal. Your nose is a filter. It will filter out germs, dust, particles and allergens. It will warm the air before the air gets to your lungs. Chronic mouth breathers tend to suffer most upper respiratory infections. Chronic mouth breathing can also contribute to poor orofacial growth, crooked teeth, bad bites, narrow dental arches, tongue thrust, sleep disorder, and sleep apnea. When children breathe through their mouths during sleep, the tongue rests low and to the back of the mouth. Dental arches become collapsed; airways become restricted and teeth become misaligned.

Poor breathing will not get children into the deep sleep that they need to be refreshed for the full day. Poor sleep and lack of sleep can decrease the growth hormone children need for proper physical and mental development.

Another tell-tale sign that your children have an airway problem is that they snore when they sleep. Children should NEVER SNORE AT ALL when they sleep. Other signs parents should look for in their children are if they have lacked concentration in school with poor attention span, which leads to poor grades. Many of these children are in fact misdiagnosed with ADD when in reality, they are suffering from poor sleep due to airway problems.

Children with airway problems can also develop Sleep Apnea, a serious medical condition when their breathing is interrupted when they sleep. If left untreated, they can potentially stop breathing hundreds of times throughout the night, which results in the brain, and the rest of the body, not getting enough oxygen.

We as their dental providers are seeing these young patients every six months at their regular check ups, so we are at the forefront of screening these children for a potential breathing disorder. They are usually screened for large tonsils and adenoids, large tongue, tongue tie, narrow upper dental arch, and worn dentition.

I encourage parents to have open discussions with your dentists if you suspect that your children might be suffering from a breathing disorder. I believe in identifying the problem early and treating as quickly as possible. Your children will have a much better and healthier life. In future articles, I will discuss some of the treatment options to treat this airway problem.

If this article resonates with you and you want to find out more about this “airway” issue for your children, please email me at I would be more than happy to discuss any concerns or questions with you.

Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy New Year!

Dr. Thelam Nguyen DDS, FICOI

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Dr. Thelam Nguyen
Dr. Thelam Nguyen

Dr. Thelam Nguyen, a distinguished dental professional, combines a solid educational background with over two decades of dedicated practice. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of Western Ontario and a Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of Toronto School of Dentistry. Dr. Nguyen's expertise extends to Implant Dentistry, Periodontal Surgery, Cosmetic Dentistry, and Adult Orthodontics. He is a respected member of prestigious dental organizations, embodying a patient-centered approach at Tansley Woods Dentistry.