Diagnosing and Treating Airway and Sleep Problems in Pediatric Patients

There may be a reason that your child is acting out at home and school. It could be that your child is not getting a restful night’s sleep because they have pediatric obstructive sleep apnea, an airway and sleep problem that affects about 1-4% of all children, usually of elementary school age.

In addition to behavior problems, common symptoms of obstructive sleep disorder in children include:

  • Snoring
  • Bedwetting
  • Night terrors
  • Restless sleep
  • Poor weight gain
  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration

In adults, obesity is a common cause of sleep apnea. Some children have sleep apnea due to obesity, but the primary reason children experience sleep apnea is large tonsils or adenoids blocking their airway. Another common reason that is less well known, is a narrow upper arch that restricts air volume.

What is pediatric obstructive sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea in children is when your child’s breathing stops several times throughout the night. They or you may not even be aware that this is happening, but because of the interrupted sleep, your child ends up not rested in the morning.

Sleep interruptions are the result of blockages or narrowing of the upper airway. Often large tonsils or adenoids cause this blockage. In some cases, abnormalities in the skull or face restrict the airway.

In adults, sleep apnea usually results in daytime sleepiness, but children with sleep apnea often act out and have behavior and concentration problems. Their appetite may also be affected, and as a result, their growth is slowed.

How can orthodontics help with pediatric obstructive sleep apnea?

Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to curtailing behavior, learning, and growth complications. While a diagnosis of pediatric obstructive sleep apnea should come from a physician, an orthodontist may be part of the treatment plan.

In many cases, the recommended course of treatment to relieve sleep apnea problems in children is surgery to remove tonsils or adenoids. Another option is a continuous positive airway pressure mask, also called a CPAP mask, which pumps air into your child’s mouth and nose while they sleep to open the airways.

When it comes to jaw and skull abnormalities, an orthodontist takes the lead in this sleep apnea treatment. If your child’s mouth, jaw, or throat constricts airways, a rapid palatal expander on its own or in combination with orthodontics can help normalize mouth, jaw, and tongue position to reduce or eliminate pediatric obstructive sleep apnea symptoms.

For more information on pediatric obstructive sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment options, call us at Lansdowne Orthodontics for an appointment with Dr. Navin Hukmani.

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