Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition that causes a person to stop breathing while sleeping because of a blocked airway. In children, OSA is most often caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids but can also be caused by obesity. If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can lead to detrimental oral, physical, mental, and behavioral problems.
Children with obstructive sleep apnea often suffer from poor oral health caused by bruxism, poor performance in school because of a lack of concentration, behavioral issues like impulsiveness, and cardiopulmonary disease.
Thankfully, all hope is not lost! If your little one is suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, a pediatric dentist can offer an effective solution. Continue reading to learn about how OSA in children is diagnosed and treated.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of OSA
Sleep apnea isn’t always as easy to detect in children as it is in adults. Snoring, of course, is one major symptom, but it doesn’t necessarily mean your child has OSA. To diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, dentists and other doctors ask specific questions about the symptoms your little one is experiencing.
The symptoms of sleep apnea in children include:
- Night sweats
- Sleep talking
- Coughing or choking while sleeping
- Daytime sleepiness
- Behavioral problems like hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and rebelliousness
- Difficulty controlling emotions
- Headaches in the morning
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
If your little one has any combination of these symptoms, contact a sleep doctor to schedule a sleep study. You can also schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatric dentist who can identify signs and symptoms of OSA and refer your child to a sleep doctor.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, dentists should do the following to determine whether a patient has sleep apnea or not:
- Screen the patient for snoring and sleep-related breathing disorders
- Screen patients for OSA
- Assess tongue positioning
- Assess the tonsillar pillar
- Refer patients to the appropriate medical providers
Treatment Options for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Treatment for sleep apnea in children is an absolute necessity. There are several options available to children with obstructive sleep apnea. The most common pediatric OSA treatments include:
- Adenotonsillectomy: surgery to remove the tonsils and adenoids
- Myofunctional therapy: mouth and throat exercises
- Continuous positive airway pressure: a machine that pumps air into the airway
- Oral appliances: devices that reposition the jaw or tongue to open the airway
- Weight loss: a pediatrician can create a healthy diet and exercise plan that helps the child lose weight and alleviate the symptoms of OSA
- Allergy treatment: medications that reduce airway constriction caused by sinus inflammation
- Positional therapy: training the child to sleep in a different position
Every child is unique and will require a unique treatment plan that reduces or eliminates the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. Your child’s pediatric dentist can work with a sleep doctor or pediatrician to create an effective and beneficial treatment. This may include several treatments or just one.
Learn More About OSA
If you’re concerned that obstructive sleep apnea may the cause of your child’s symptoms, don’t wait to visit with a pediatric dentist or sleep doctor. At Smiles Dentistry for Kids, Dr. Matt is passionate about helping children live happy and healthy lives. Part of that is identifying signs and symptoms of OSA.
To schedule an initial consultation for your child, contact our friendly dental team today at (913) 685-9990.