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Sleep apnea can be a problem for children, too

Dentists are often the ones to discover the sleep apnea in kids first.

SAN ANTONIO — Sleep apnea isn't only a problem for adults, but for children too. 

You'd think that when kids don't get enough sleep it may be because of things like anxiety or too much screen time. But for many, the problem is a breathing disorder.  And who often finds a child's sleep problem first? The dentist.

"We're looking for what do their jaws look like? Do they have tongue ties? And we're able to connect those signs as the child grinding their teeth. When we check for medical history, we're able to connect those dots," said Dr. Meghna Dassani, a sleep apnea dentist.

According to the Sleep Foundation infants from 4-12 months of age need 12-16 hours of sleep a day including naps. Toddlers between one and two years need 11 to 14 hours. Preschoolers three to five years of age 10 to 13 hours. And school-aged children six to 12 years old need nine to 12 hours of sleep.

So how do you figure out what is causing the sleep apnea? 

"One of the most common signs and symptoms, I tell parents to look for is snoring. We're also looking for kids that are messy sleepers. Kids should not be rolling around in bed. Children that are still wetting the bed. And I don't mean your two year old that has regressed potty training. I mean your eight, nine, ten year old," Dr. Dassani told us.

So what can happen in the long-term if your kid doesn't get enough sleep? 

"The heart now has to work harder to get that oxygen to the brain. What should really be resting? So over time, this is why we see more and more kids with early onset diabetes. We're seeing kids with high blood pressure. And fortunately, it's not uncommon," Dr. Dassani said. 

Dr. Dassani also says it isn't just the heart that can't repair, but the brain too. 

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