Obstructive sleep apnea affects literally millions of people every year. It causes poor sleep, lack of concentration, and a myriad of other health related issues, some of which can be very serious indeed. It’s difficult enough for an adult to handle, but did you know that your child can also suffer from obstructive sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is generally a result of the relaxing of soft muscle tissue during sleep that obstructs the airway. In children, it is often the tonsils and adenoids that are the offending obstruction. While the child is sleeping, muscle tone decreases and the tonsils and adenoids can block the airway. When this occurs, the child awakens repeatedly during the night as the body’s natural response to the inability to breathe. While the child usually doesn’t fully awaken the effects don’t go unnoticed. Episodes last from a few seconds to over a minute and the end result is poor, frequently interrupted, sleep.
Of course, obstructive sleep apnea can result in a wide variety of issues for your child, both mentally and physically. A lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain and irregular heartbeat. It can also make it difficult for your child to properly function in school, sports, or even participate fully in family life as it can cause poor concentration, anxiety and increased stress hormones.
There are a number of risk factors with obstructive sleep apnea in children. As with adults, being overweight is often a contributing factor, but it is also true that thinner children, especially those with tonsil or adenoid issues, can also suffer from the condition. Children with Down’s Syndrome, muscle weakness, or a small jaw are also at risk.
Loud breathing and snoring while sleeping, and also restless sleep are two of the major symptoms to look out for. Mouth-breathing, or sleeping in odd positions could also be an indicator. You may notices things such as:
You may also notice bedwetting issues and increased frequency of infections, especially related to the tonsils, adenoids, or ears. Of course, any of these things could be caused by other conditions, so it is important to seek medical advice.
If your doctor suspects your child has obstructive sleep apnea, they may recommend a sleep study. Your child will stay overnight in a sleep center. The doctor will strategically place electrodes on your child’s body to monitor functioning. A trained specialist oversees the test and prepares the results for the doctor’s evaluation. Once they analyze the results of the sleep study they’ll determine if the child should be diagnosed with OSA and go over the available treatment options.
Treatment options will depend on the source of your child’s obstructive sleep apnea. If the tonsils or adenoids are causing the apnea, then the doctor may suggest surgical removal. Depending on the severity of the case, the doctor may also recommend additional treatment options. These may include things such as weight loss or allergy treatment.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is sometimes used as a treatment option. This involves the child wearing a mask that fits over their nose, and is connected by a tube to a machine that forces pressurized air through the tube while the child is sleeping. This forces the airway to remain open, so the child can breathe during sleep.
Many parents, understandably so, are concerned about surgery and also fear that their child may not do well with a CPAP device. Of course, in some instances, surgery may be the optimal choice, but in many cases a dentist specializing in obstructive sleep apnea might be able to help. Oral appliance therapy works through the child wearing an appliance resembling a mouth guard similar to what they might wear during sports. This helps to support the jaw in a forward position, which helps to keep the airway open at night. If this treatment is determined to be a viable option for your child, it is worth exploring because it is less expensive and risky than surgery and medical insurance will often cover the cost.
If you suspect your child has obstructive sleep apnea, the first step is to see your physician and start the process of testing in order to receive an official diagnosis. If a doctor determines that your child has sleep apnea, the next step is to begin exploring treatment options. Talk to your physician as well as a dentist specializing in obstructive sleep apnea to learn more about options specific to the needs of your child.
If oral appliance therapy is deemed appropriate for your child, the dentist will complete a thorough evaluation, making sure your child’s mouth and jaw are strong and healthy enough to support an appliance. The dentist will also determine which appliance would work best for your child as there are a variety of types and styles to choose from based on individual circumstances and needs.
If you are concerned that your child may have obstructive sleep apnea, or if your child has already been diagnosed and you have decided that surgery is not an option, then consider contacting a dentist specializing in obstructive sleep apnea as soon as possible. If left untreated, OSA causes a cascade of mental and physical issues that create unnecessary hindrances to your child’s life. Consider consulting a dentist specially trained in obstructive sleep apnea today!
To learn more about treating your child’s sleep apnea treated with oral appliance therapy, please contact Mark Levy DDS at (614) 777-7350 today. Bring your child for a full evaluation and assessment of their treatment options and needs.