As a Dentist in Portland OR I evaluate thousands of people for Sleep Apnea. Most don’t realize or notice the signs and symptoms related to childhood sleep apnea. So I want you to ask yourself these questions about your child. Does your child have ADHD or ADD, suffer from hyperactivity, behavioral issues and irritability, or poor school performance? If so, it may be due to an inadequate quality of sleep. It is estimated that between 20% and 50% of the pediatric and adolescent population may have a sleep disorder. Unfortunately, sleep disorders in this age group are difficult to catch, and remain undiagnosed. Pediatric and adolescent sleep disorders include insomnia, periodic limb movement disorder, restless leg syndrome, and sleep related breathing disorder (SRBD), which includes chronic snoring as well as obstructive sleep apnea. Chronic snoring and obstructive sleep apnea prevent oxygen from reaching the brain, disrupt the child’s quality of sleep, and can cause the behavioral issues described as well as physical symptoms.
Physical symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include a tongue that seems enlarged and is constantly sticking out even at rest, muffled voice, a chronic runny nose, and bags under the eyes. Less noticeable but equally important symptoms occur inside the child’s mouth like a narrow, vaulted roof of the mouth or hard palate , a narrow bite called a crossbite where the lower teeth overlap the upper teeth, evidence of acid erosion or pitting of the enamel on posterior teeth, gum inflammation around the front teeth to mouth breathing, and enlarged tonsils.
Children and adolescents should be screened for snoring as part of a routine physician wellness visit, but isn’t always followed and many children’s sleep issues go unnoticed and diagnosed.
The newest American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guideline recommends an overnight sleep study test called a polysomnogram or “PSG” for children with daytime learning problems, labored breathing during sleep, and disturbed sleep with snoring, gasping, snorting or pauses in order to confirm a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea.
The AAP recommends tonsil and adenoid removal as the first-line treatment for children with obstructive sleep apnea. Other treatments like weight loss in obese children or wearing a CPAP if surgery is not ineffective or not performed may be prescribed by pediatricians. Orthodontic treatment to correct crossbite, expand the hard palate to reduce nasal obstructions and create room for the tongue help reduce or eliminate obstructive sleep apnea as well.
As a Dentist in Portland, OR, I may very well be the only exposure patients and parents have to learn about this. If your child or a child you know exhibits these behavioral and/or physical symptoms, please call our TenderCare Dental office today at 503-629-8005 for a free consultation.