As a sleep dentist, you are committed to providing exceptional care to both children and adults. With the number of sleep apnea cases rising in young people, it’s now more important than ever to spot early warning signs and recommend safe and reliable treatment options. When seeing a child who has been exposed to secondhand smoke, you’ll need to not only address the problem with the parent, but you’ll need to determine how best to care for the child, so they get the rest they need while being able to breathe freely. Read on to find out what you can do as a sleep dentist to ensure the child’s future health.
Secondhand Smoke and Sleep Apnea: What’s the Connection?
Although sleep apnea in young children is rare, it cannot be disregarded, especially since childhood obesity rates are continually increasing. But this isn’t the only culprit. Secondhand smoke is also known to increase a child’s risk for this common sleep disorder.
In a 2019 article published in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, researchers discovered that children ages 3-18 who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to experience serious cases based on the obstructive apnea hypopnea index (OAHI) This means their episodes can become more frequent at night, hindering their ability to breathe freely and sleep soundly.
As a child inhales the smoke around them, their nasal airway and throat are impacted, making it difficult to achieve a restful night’s sleep. Not to mention, the harm that can be done to their lungs.
Ways to Tell a Child Has Sleep Apnea as a Result of Secondhand Smoke Exposure
To properly treat a child with sleep apnea, you must know the warning signs, which are easily identifiable when talking to the child and the parent. It’s important to ask plenty of questions about what is normally observed at home. You’ll want to inquire if the child:
- Snores loudly
- Wets the bed
- Appears irritable in the mornings or throughout the day
- Experiences chronic fatigue
- Grinds their teeth
- Has migraines regularly
- Has difficulty sleeping throughout the night
Safe and Effective Treatment Options
Depending on the type of treatment options you offer, helping young children get the rest they need is vital to their overall health and wellbeing. While it will be important to talk to parents about ceasing tobacco use and smoking while around their child, you’ll need to focus on ways you can assist in helping the young person breathe and sleep better. The first step will be to recommend a sleep study. Once an official diagnosis is made, you can recommend oral appliance therapy, which is commonly used among children. These oral devices are portable and easy to use. Customized to fit the child’s mouth, it keeps their airway open throughout the night, preventing any blockage and allowing them to breathe freely and get the sleep they desperately need.
In your position as a sleep dentist, make sure you’re discussing the dangers of secondhand smoke with your teenage and adult patients. When young children are around, it’s important they understand that their bad habits can negatively impact those around them. However, with your help, the children you treat can start on a path to better health.
About 21st Century Sleep Seminars
Dr. Kent Smith is a top professional in sleep medicine who has experience in treating, writing, and speaking about sleep disorders. His wealth of knowledge has helped other dentists integrate sleep apnea treatment into their own practices. At 21st Century Sleep Seminars, we can provide you with the information, tips, advice, and network of professionals you need to effectively treat these sleep disorders your patients are facing. To learn more, visit our website or call (972) 255-3712.