My sister-in-law says her pediatric dentist helped her nine-year-old son stop wetting the bed at night and told me that I should take my seven-year-old in for the same kind of treatment. I’ve never heard of such a thing and no matter how much I search online, I can’t find anything that relates to what she’s talking about either. I’m starting to think she somehow got her wires crossed, but she’s very adamant about it. Is there a connection here? If so, what did they have done?
This is a great question on a topic that’s rarely discussed in pediatric dentistry. Your sister-in-law is not off her rocker, but her son may be experiencing a somewhat rare condition.
First, Some Quick Stats on Bedwetting by Age
According to research published by Harvard, somewhere around 80-85% of kids are dry throughout the night by age five. The number of kids still wetting the bed decreases about 15% per year after that even when no action is taken. By the time kids reach 15, only about 1% still wet the bed. At your son’s age, he probably “should have” outgrown bed-wetting, but it’s not necessarily a huge cause for concern yet.
There are Many Potential Causes
Developmental: Sometimes kids physically develop slower—it takes a bit longer for them to control over urinary sphincter or to recognize their bladder is full.
Genetic: Harvard researchers point to two genes associated with bedwetting—one on chromosome 12 and another on chromosome 13. Vincent Iannelli, MD of Very Well Family says that if both parents wet the bed, there’s a 77% chance their child will too. If only one did, there’s a 44% chance.
Hormonal: Under ordinary circumstances, hormonal shifts that happen during sleep tell our bodies to make less urine. Some children don’t have the same hormonal shifts, so their bodies keep producing urine just as they would during the day.
Other: Additional factors, such as a “small” bladder can cause the issue too.
Health Issues: It’s worth noting that conditions like urinary tract infections and diabetes can be related to bedwetting too. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to bring the pediatrician into the discussion as well.
Sleep Apnea is an Often-Overlooked Cause
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the type of sleep apnea where the airway becomes blocked. It’s often caused by obesity, but sometimes people with a small airway or other risk factors can experience it too. Additionally, about half of all people who snore loudly have OSA too, according to the Sleep Foundation. The organization notes that children with “sleep-disordered breathing” often produce more urine and that “OSA may also have an effect on a child’s arousal response, bladder pressure, or urinary hormone secretion, all of which could contribute to nighttime bedwetting.”
OSA comes with a host of other issues well beyond bedwetting. If your son is experiencing it, he needs treatment regardless. However, one thing that can help with lots of cases is an oral sleep apnea device—a pediatric dentist or family dentist can have it made for you. This is likely what your sister-in-law was referencing.
Get it Checked Out
There’s no need to panic at this point, but be diligent with this and get it checked out in case there is a medical condition contributing—an infection, diabetes, or sleep apnea should all be treated. Your pediatrician can walk you through other options to help your son sleep better and feel better too. Best of luck to you and yours.
This blog is sponsored by Dr. Raymond Bolt, a provider of pediatric dentistry services in Auburn, Alabama.