How Pediatric Gum Disease Can Worsen Sleep Apnea

Many children suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, which can cause loud snoring and episodes of breathing cessation during sleep. Obesity, adenoid problems, and acid reflux disease are risk factors for sleep apnea; however, dental problems may also raise the risk. Here are some ways pediatric gum disease can worsen sleep apnea in your child, and what you can do about it:

Bacterial Tonsil Infections 

Gum disease is caused by infection-causing bacteria that can spread to your child's tonsils and pharynx. When this happens, the tonsils and other soft tissues of the throat can swell, obstructing the child's airway. When the airway is obstructed, an effective pattern of breathing cannot be established, and because of this, apnea may occur. If your child's gums are swollen, dark red, or if they bleed, seek prompt pediatric dental care.

Your child will need an examination and professional tooth cleaning, which will include scraping hardened tartar off the backs of the teeth and underneath the gum line. If the gingivitis is severe, it may lead to periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease, which can destroy the gum tissue and the underlying bone. In addition to a dental cleaning, the dentist may recommend a course of antibiotics to prevent a gingival infection from spreading to other parts of the body.

Sinus Congestion

Your child's gum disease may also cause sinus congestion or infections when bacteria from the gums spread to the nasal cavity. This can prevent your child from breathing through the nose, making him or her prone to snoring, gasping, and apnea episodes when sleeping. In addition to seeking frequent pediatric dental care services, make sure your child brushes and flosses regularly.

Children with gum disease may be hesitant to brush and floss properly because they fear their gums will bleed. Tell your child that even though his or her gums may bleed when brushing and flossing, the oral hygiene routine should not be deviated from.

Proper dental care will help heal the gum tissue so that they no longer bleed. To further promote the healing of gum disease, encourage your child to increase his or her intake of vitamin C rich foods. Vitamin C is thought to play an important role in oral health and may reduce the risk of gingivitis.

If your child snores loudly, gasps, or struggles for air while sleeping, he or she may have obstructive sleep apnea caused by gum disease. Make an appointment with your child's physician, who may recommend that the patient undergo a sleep study to test for apnea. Also, visit the pediatric dentist on a regular basis for cleanings and checkups. If your child's gum disease fails to resolve, the pediatric dentist may recommend that the patient see a periodontist, a dentist specializing in gum disease.