4 Ways Orthodontists Can Treat Sleep Apnea in Children

Talk to Dr. Heidi About Sleep Apnea Treatment Options Today!

Your child has started to experience difficulty staying awake and demonstrates growing behavioral issues both inside the classroom and at home. He seems lethargic and dark circles form under his eyes. You’re beginning to wonder if he gets enough sleep at night.

One night, after he has fallen asleep, you notice loud snoring coming from his room. When you go to check on him, you observe gaps in his breathing.

Should your child’s snoring pattern concern you? Does his snoring have an impact on his ability to concentrate at school?

At least 10 percent of children snore periodically or regularly in their sleep. Snoring may mean your child suffers from allergies or has an acute respiratory illness. Although snoring does not always indicate a more serious problem, it can indicate your child may have a sleep-related breathing disorder.

Up to 3% of children snore because of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, also referred to as sleep apnea, a condition causing frequent interruptions in sleep, resulting from an obstruction in the airway. Your child’s lungs cannot get enough oxygen, causing him to snore loudly, stop breathing periodically, and wake frequently. Sleep apnea can lead to serious health complications for your child, so it’s important to consult a medical professional right away once you observe the behavior.

But is your child’s snoring caused by sleep apnea? And if so, what non-invasive treatments exist to improve your child’s condition?

Signs of Sleep Apnea in Children Can Include:

  • Snoring, often extremely loud
  • Choking in the middle of the night
  • Noticeable and long pauses in breathing
  • Waking frequently during the night
  • Teeth grinding in sleep
  • Difficulty staying awake during the day
  • Difficulty paying attention at school or at home
  • Behavioral problems, often linked to symptoms of ADHD

If your child experiences any or several of these symptoms, you will want to talk to your doctor to have your child assessed for obstructive sleep apnea or other sleep disorders.

Once your child has a diagnosis, you can work with your doctor to develop an appropriate treatment plan. Fortunately, several non-invasive options exist to help treat sleep apnea in children, including orthodontic applications, depending on your child’s stage of growth.

Orthodontic Treatments of Sleep Apnea in Children Include:

  • Braces: Sometimes the position of your child’s jaw may account for his sleep apnea. These cases can sometimes be resolved through orthodontic treatment over time, including braces.
  • Palatal Expander: This device inserts into the roof of your child’s mouth and proves most appropriate for younger children yet to experience puberty, as the bones in the roof of the mouth have not yet finished growing, at which point they will fuse together. The palatal expander helps to widen the roof of the mouth and expand the airway, helping your child breathe.
  • Overnight Mouthpiece: This custom mouthpiece, also known as a mandibular advancement device, helps manipulate your child’s jaw down and forward, clearing the airway. This treatment method proves more effective in younger children, as their bones have not fully grown, allowing for adaption.
  • Tongue Re-training Devices: These custom devices force the tongue into the proper position, clearing way for your child to breathe.

Additional treatment options for sleep apnea include surgery to remove the adenoids and tonsils. When they become enlarged, children can have difficulty breathing.

Another common treatment of sleep apnea includes improved diet and exercise, as obesity can cause sleep apnea.

Treating snoring and sleep apnea in children through orthodontic intervention will help ensure your child receives a more complete, restful, and recuperative sleep, leaving him with more energy, greater capacity to focus at home and school, and fewer behavioral problems caused by sleep deprivation.

If you would like to explore orthodontic treatments for your child’s sleep apnea, contact us today to discuss appropriate treatment options.