By promoting proper facial development, Healthy Start can ensure your child’s dental arches expand naturally, without the need for extractions or other aggressive interventions. And because the system starts early (as young as age 2), it is able to work passively during sleep or during brief periods while awake. There is also a brief period of active wear for the device that stimulates development of the teeth and jaw.
Another benefit over braces is that Healthy Start uses removable appliances so that your child won’t have added difficulty cleaning their teeth, and won’t have any diet restrictions. It’s hard enough finding healthy food for your child to eat–you don’t need additional restrictions to make it harder.
But perhaps the most important benefit is that Healthy Start can address sleep disordered breathing and its numerous symptoms so your child can enjoy a healthier, happier childhood.
Listen to Dr. Firouzian discussing sleep disordered breathing and how it can be treated from his interview with WOSU Columbus.
Dangers of Sleep Disordered Breathing
Sleep disordered breathing is when your child is unable to breathe properly during sleep, manifesting as snoring, constant waking, or sleepiness and low energy during the day. For decades we have been studying the impact of sleep disordered breathing conditions like sleep apnea on adults, but it’s only recently that we’ve come to appreciate the impact it can have on children. Some of the health effects associated with sleep disordered breathing include:
- Aggressive behavior
- Moodiness or depression
- Difficulty in school
- Chronic allergies
- Frequent illness
- Stunted growth
- Restless sleep
- Swollen adenoids and/or tonsils
- Dark circles under the eyes
The body performs many vital functions during sleep, including critical mental organization and developmental tasks. This is especially important for children, whose brains and bodies are working hard on growth.
Many children with learning difficulties or behavioral problems in school are actually suffering from sleep problems. Because their brains aren’t given the time to rest, recover, and process information, they have memory problems. Because they aren’t getting restorative sleep, they can be moody or aggressive. Because they are constantly tired, they may have difficulty focusing, and especially maintaining focus through a day’s lessons.
Many of these children may be prescribed medications to help with these problems, but what they really need is just better sleep.
These sleep problems might manifest as bed wetting, nightmares, or restless sleep, but the root cause is difficulty breathing.
Your child’s health can be impacted by the lack of sleep, too. Your child may experience chronic allergy symptoms, frequent illness, may have swollen adenoids or tonsils, and you can tell they’re not getting enough sleep because of the dark circles under their eyes. And your child may start to fall off their developmental growth targets, too.
How Healthy Start Works
Healthy Start offers an alternative to traditional orthodontics. Because traditional orthodontics waits until your child’s teeth have emerged, it needs to use brutal force to wrench the teeth into place. It’s also lost a lot of opportunity to influence the development of the jaw, so jaw change options may be limited, and will also likely require significant force. Force translates to discomfort and requires a complex support system to deliver, including brackets, wires, headgear, and more.
Instead, Healthy Start uses soft plastic aligners that can be comfortably worn during sleep. Because the system starts as soon as possible, it can accomplish the same or better results with less force. Your child will start out wearing these aligners at night if they can. At first, it may take some getting used to, and bad habits like mouth breathing can interfere. Once the mouth breathing is no longer a problem and your child adapts to having “pillows on their teeth”, the system is very easy to wear all night.
There is also a short period of active wear during the day, which utilizes tongue exercises and jaw motions to stimulate the growth and development of the jaw.
The Link between ADHD and Sleep
We know there is a strong correlation between ADHD and sleep problems. Perhaps 50% of children with ADHD may have some form of sleep disorder. However, we’re not entirely sure of the connection.
In some cases, it seems that the ADHD may be partly to blame for the sleep disorders. Other times, the sleep disorder and ADHD may stem from a common cause. But in many cases, it is actually the sleep disorder that could be causing the ADHD.
Sleep Problems Misdiagnosed as ADHD
One problem parents face is that their doctor may simply be misdiagnosing a sleep problem as ADHD. Children who don’t get enough sleep have a hard time focusing on challenging subjects and are more likely to let their attention wander. When they are tired, children are more likely to show hyperactive behaviors.
Misdiagnosis partly comes from the fact that doctors assume that sleep disorders are rare in children, but this is a misconception. Older studies suggest that about 6% of children could have sleep apnea, a proportion that has likely increased thanks to developmental changes in the jaw and airway as well as increased rates of childhood obesity.
In adults, sleep apnea and snoring are closely related, but the relationship is less strong in children. About 50% of children with sleep apnea don’t have loud snoring. This makes it hard for parents to identify the breathing problem in their children. If parents don’t report sleep problems, doctors may not consider them and may not recommend sleep testing to eliminate that possibility.
Resolving ADHD with Better Breathing at Night
One of the most common forms of sleep disorder children face is sleep disordered breathing (snoring or sleep apnea). This is so common and so influential that researchers think as much as 25% of children with ADHD could eliminate their symptoms if they get their sleep disordered breathing problems treated.
Sleep disordered breathing is a broad category of sleep problems that includes both snoring and sleep apnea. If your child can improve breathing, then in many cases their ADHD may resolve or improve.
Thumb Sucking: Causes and Cures
Thumb sucking is a natural consequence of a child’s natural instinct to get comfort from breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is calming because of the hormones that it produces in both child and mother. With simple conditioning, it’s easy for children to associate the act of sucking with comfort. This is why a pacifier works, and why children start sucking their thumbs.
In very young children, this isn’t a problem, but the longer it persists, the more likely it is to lead to teeth and bite problems.
To cure thumb sucking, it’s important to determine why your child feels the need for comfort and help them feel more comfortable. For older children, you can talk to them about the habit and why it can be damaging to their oral health. Then have them work with you to develop a plan to control their thumb sucking. It is more effective to praise a child for not sucking their thumb than it is to scold them for sucking their thumb. Since thumb sucking is a comfort behavior, scolding can make them lean on it more.
The Effects of Thumb Sucking
Thumb sucking can be damaging to a child’s oral health because it teaches them to hold their tongue in a particular position. This is not the optimal position for their tongue. In this position, the tongue does not properly encourage the growth of the jaw. Instead of helping to develop both airway and jaw, the tongue is actually reshaping the teeth and jaws into an unhealthy shape. The obstruction of the thumb or other finger can also influence the position of the teeth and jaw.
Children who persist in thumb sucking as they get older are more likely to experience dental injury than younger-aged children. It is important that children stop thumb-sucking long enough before permanent teeth emerge that good habits of tongue positioning can be established and help form the jaw properly. If this doesn’t occur, then the position of permanent teeth could be affected.
The typical effect of prolonged thumb sucking is an open bite and overbite. It can also contribute to speech and breathing problems. Through breathing problems, it can contribute to problems like ADHD and bedwetting.
How HealthyStart Helps with Thumb Sucking
HealthyStart is a system that is focused on helping you break your child’s bad habits and establish good, healthy habits of tongue position and other behaviors.
HealthyStart’s first stage is designed to stop bad habits, including thumb sucking. With the first stage appliances, it becomes harder for your child to suck their thumb, and, combined with other interventions, this can help break the habit.
More importantly, HealthyStart helps break the habits of tongue position that can persist long after thumb sucking has stopped. It is these habits that are most destructive to your child’s proper development. Teaching your child to properly position their tongue can help them avoid the worst overbite and open bite and can head off the need for orthodontics later.
A Comprehensive Aid for Your Child’s Development
Are you ready to improve your child’s health and happiness with better sleep? Do you want to help them grow up healthy and potentially avoid braces? Please call (614) 848-5001 today for an appointment at the Center for Family & Cosmetic Dentistry in Columbus, OH. And look forward to restful nights and happier, healthier days for your child!