Sleep apnea or snoring is a common disorder that affects 5 to 20 percent of adults. It isn’t exclusive to grown men and women, however, as sleep apnea also affects 1 to 4 percent of children aged 2 to 8.
Sleep apnea may be obstructive or central. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the upper throat muscle relaxes during sleep, closing the airway and making it difficult to breathe. Central sleep apnea (CSA), on the other hand, occurs when the brain fails to send proper signals to control breathing during sleep. Of these two, children are more likely to have OSA.
Given its causes, parents must not take it lightly when their children snore. Snoring can have far-reaching effects on their health, academics, and social life. Hence, Southpoint Quality Dental advises parents in Fredericksburg to take their children to an orthodontist if the latter are showing signs of habitual snoring.
One of the main concerns for children with OSA is they don’t get the quality of sleep and rest their young bodies need. Children with OSA experience breathing gaps which may last for a few seconds to a full minute. These are periods wherein the child doesn’t breathe at all. It results in oxygen deprivation, which in turn wakes triggers the brain to wake up.
With interrupted sleep and low blood oxygen levels, a child is likely to have a poor disposition throughout the day. An early study on the pathophysiology of OSA in children reveals that the disorder may result in daytime sleepiness, inattention, crankiness, poor appetite, and headaches. Curiously, habitual snoring may also result in hyperactivity among younger children.
A child’s performance in school is inexorably tied to his or her overall health. As most parents can attest to, children with fragmented sleep tend to have cognitive and behavioral issues that often show in school. They have a hard time focusing in class and understanding lessons. They also tend to keep to themselves and avoid interacting with their classmates. As a result, their grades and social development could suffer.
A five-year study published in the journal SLEEP gave clinical proof of these observations. It assessed the behavioral and cognitive manifestations of 263 children in Arizona. The study revealed that the odds of behavioral problems were six times higher in children with persistent sleep apnea. Furthermore, they were three times more likely to get academic grades of C or lower.
Immediate treatment of OSA in children is necessary. As a misaligned jaw is a probable cause, parents may consult a pediatric orthodontist.
Orthodontists who also specialize in sleep apnea treatments can help patients sleep better at night. Southpoint Quality Dental, for instance, provides a special orthodontic appliance that helps keep the air passageway open while the patient sleeps.
Braces can also help improve breathing rhythms while sleeping. Although they are mainly for cosmetic purposes, braces can help prevent OSA as they effectively move the teeth and jaw into proper alignment. If a child’s sleep apnea is due to malocclusion, orthodontic braces are a possible treatment option.
Treating OSA is imperative for children to have optimal health and cognitive and social development. While it’s advisable that you talk to a pediatrician who specializes in treating sleep disorders, you can consult with our orthodontists at Southpoint Quality Dental, too. Trust us to make an honest and accurate assessment of what your child needs to overcome sleep apnea.
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