'Silent epidemic' in children: Sleep Disordered Breathing

Published: Nov. 13, 2018 at 2:00 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

(11/14/2018) - Many children struggle with chronic health conditions like ADHD, restless sleep and allergies.

But research shows they could all be symptoms of another undiagnosed problem.

Dr. Jay Werschky, who operates a dental practice in Grand Blanc Township, learned about Sleep Disordered Breathing during a recent pediatric symposium.

He said it changed the way he sees and treats his young patients at his dental practice.

"I've been looking at kids for 40 years. And all of a sudden I came back and said, 'You know, I have to look at these kids a little differently,'" Werschky said.

The first of its kind symposium on pediatric airways showed how Sleep Disordered Breathing is directly tied to dozens of childhood health problems, including ADHD, restless sleep, bedwetting, allergies, speech problems and poor school performance.

Werschky said the Healthy Start questionnaire for parents could help diagnose the condition affecting nine out of 10 children. It comes down to how a child is getting oxygen.

"If they're a mouth breather, if they lay there in bed with their mouth open, just that opening of the jaw can constrict the airway 6 millimeters. And you only have 8 millimeters to start with when you're a little kid. So you take off three-quarters of their airway, it makes a huge difference in the quality of their sleep," Werschky said.

He recognized many symptoms on the checklist in his 5-year-old grandson, Emmett. According to Emmett's mom, Dr. Jori Lewis, he was struggling with mood swings, restless sleep, mouth breathing, snoring, and more.

Werschky came up with Emmett's treatment plan, which includes a habit corrector mouthpiece. He said it helps train the tongue to be in the correct position.

The appliance also helps develop the upper and lower jaw, opening up the airway. It helps Emmett learn to breathe through his nose.

After two months of use, Lewis said Emmett is making huge strides. He's getting quality sleep for an extended amount of time.

"We see the light. We're not constantly having to say his name 10 times to get his attention. We're not worrying about him having a total meltdown," Lewis said.

Werschky said while the treatments won't be the answer for every child, the questionnaire will help start the conversation.

He hopes to raise awareness about Sleep Disordered Breathing and encourages parents to talk with their child's dentist.

There are a few different companies selling the appliances.

Healthy Start says its system is about half the cost of traditional braces and falls under orthodontic treatment in dental insurance plans.