Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that disturbs the breathing process while the person is asleep. According to statistics, as many as 4% of children between the ages of two and eight suffer from some form of sleep apnea. Although it affects adults as well as children, the symptoms of pediatric sleep apnea are different.
Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed because the interruptions in breathing only last for a few seconds, and the person usually doesn’t wake up during an episode and doesn’t realize that their breathing has been disturbed. In addition to interfering with your child’s ability to get a good night’s sleep, sleep apnea can also increase the risk of other health problems.
At Oasis Pediatric Dental Care and Orthodontics, Dr. Nathalie Phaeton and Dr. Ki Youn Kil and our dental team offer a range of pediatric dentistry services at our practice in Falls Church, Virginia, including remedies for sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea symptoms in children
One of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea is loud snoring. The most common form of sleep apnea in children is obstructive sleep apnea. It results when the airway becomes momentarily blocked as the throat muscles or tongue relax. The tonsils and adenoids can also obstruct the airway while children sleep.
Central sleep apnea is caused by a malfunction with the brain’s signals to the muscles that control breathing. Central sleep apnea is less common, but the symptoms tend to overlap with obstructive sleep apnea.
In addition to snoring, children with sleep apnea may also have the following symptoms:
- Mouth breathing
- Snorting or choking in their sleep
- Night terrors
- Wetting the bed
- Fitful or restless sleeping
If you suspect your child may have sleep apnea, you may be able to see the pauses in breathing by observing them while they sleep.
Over time, the disruptions in your child’s sleep routine can lead to additional problems such as poor academic performance due to feeling sleepy throughout the day. It may also increase the risk of hyperactivity and behavioral problems.
What to do if you think your child has sleep apnea
Although it’s a sleep disorder, dentists treat sleep apnea after a specialist makes the diagnosis. They can prescribe an oral appliance that helps to keep the jaw aligned and the airway open and unobstructed while the child sleeps. CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is a device that delivers oxygen through a mask while the person sleeps.
According to the Sleep Apnea Foundation, children with sleep apnea usually benefit from having their tonsils removed (in approximately 70 to 90% of cases, obstructive sleep apnea symptoms disappear after removal of the tonsils and adenoids).
If you have concerns or suspect that your child may be suffering from sleep apnea, our dentists will review their symptoms and make recommendations for further testing and treatment.
For more information about how to recognize the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea and the treatment options available for children, contact our office today or schedule an appointment online.