In the dental and medical fields, we’re often most concerned about our obese patients. Obesity can be related to a host of dangerous medical conditions, including sleep apnea. It’s also easy to spot, and the patients or their parents often realize that it’s a problem and are working toward solutions.
Underweight patients often get overlooked, especially since our society idolizes extremely thin actors and models. However, a new study from researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center highlights how very low weight can also be a symptom of sleep apnea in children. The study included 124 children whose BMI was lower than the 5th percentile. Their average age was 6. When these children underwent a sleep study, 2/3 of them had obstructive sleep apnea.
The children with sleep apnea were more likely to have:
- Shorter stature
- Enlarged tonsils
- A diagnosis of allergies
Because lack of sleep can affect growth hormones, these kids just aren't getting enough good sleep to grow. In older kids, we often see obesity as a byproduct of hormonal dysregulation from interrupted sleep, but in younger kids, a lack of overall growth can also be a huge warning sign.
As clinicians, this study is an important reminder to look at the big picture for our patients. If we want them to be healthy, we need to look for anomalies like being underweight and make sure these kids get screened and treated for their sleep breathing problems.
Ready To Do More?
If you’re not yet identifying and treating pediatric obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in your dental practice, it's time to start. These kids need you and your expertise. Often, you will be the first professional to talk to parents about OSA. You can help your patients get on the path to a healthy life, but only if you know how to address their airway issues.
Are you ready to learn? Dr. Dassani’s new Sleep Accelerator program can have you ready to screen and treat your patients in just 6 weeks.