We have all heard about the effects that sleep apnea has on adults; but what about the effects of sleep apnea in children? The impact that this disorder has on children may surprise you.
Understanding Sleep Apnea in Children
Just as with adults, children who have sleep apnea wake up on-and-off due to a brief interruption of airflow through their upper airway. Each time this interruption occurs, the oxygen level in the blood may fall and/or the brain may be stimulated to wake the body to resume a normal breathing pattern. This cycle continues all night long.
Recognizing Sleep Apnea
If your child snores, has long pauses in breathing, experiences night sweats, and/or tosses and turns, sleep apnea may be the cause. Sleep apnea may also be linked to bedwetting, mouth breathing and sleepwalking.
The Effects of Sleep Apnea
Up to 25 percent of the children who are diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have obstructive sleep apnea, which is contributing to their behaviour problems and learning difficulties.
Metabolic issues, hormone problems and failure to thrive can all be caused by sleep apnea. In fact, there are several recent studies showing a connection between sleep apnea and childhood obesity. Judith Owens, M.D., is the director of sleep medicine at the National Children’s Medical Center in Washington, D.C. According to Dr. Owens, one of the keys to preventing the onset of childhood obesity is an adequate amount of healthy sleep.
Sleep Apnea and ADHD
It is believed that sleep apnea causes a continuous shifting between the lighter and deeper stages of sleep, this shifting is referred to as ‘sleep fragmentation.’ Adults who have sleep apnea experience drowsiness during the day; however, a child becomes hyperactive and unruly. This disrupted sleep can also cause a child to experience anxiety, have problems interacting with others and suffer with the symptoms of depression.
The Connection Between a Slow Growth Rate and Disrupted Sleep
Since hormones are produced and secreted during the deep, slow-wave stage of the sleep cycle, it is believed that the interrupted sleep disrupts the production and secretion of hormones, including the hormone responsible for stimulating growth.
Evaluating and Treating Children with Sleep Apnea
If you think that your child may have sleep apnea, he or she needs to be evaluated by a pediatric sleep specialist. In addition, the orthodontists at DocBraces can examine your child’s mouth to see if an orthodontic problem is causing or contributing to the disorder.
Treating sleep apnea in children usually requires a multi-disciplinary approach: Treatments may include a tonsillectomy, allergy treatment, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and/or rapid maxillary expansion (RME).
Orthodontic Treatment for Sleep Apnea
RME is the treatment orthodontists use to slowly widen the forward section of the roof of the mouth. Once this area is wider, air can move more freely through the nose, and into the throat and lungs.
Since the maxilla’s growth plate fuses later in childhood, RME treatment should begin between the ages of 3 and 10. Directly following placement of the brace and after adjustments your child may experience some mild pain. The brace is not visible outside of the mouth and will not affect the way your child eats or speaks.
What to Expect During RME Treatment
During treatment, the rapid maxillary expansion device (i.e., the butterfly brace) is used to slowly increase the width of the maxilla. The butterfly brace slides over a few of the child’s back teeth.
As time passes, adjustments are made to the brace using a special key. These adjustments gradually increase the amount of pressure being applied to the child’s teeth and hard palate.
The impact that untreated sleep apnea can have on a child makes it abundantly clear that recognizing and treating this disorder is vital. If you suspect your child may have sleep apnea, call 1-866-639-7695 or click here to schedule a free consultation with a DocBraces orthodontist today. Our experienced orthodontists have the specialized training necessary to address orthodontic issues related to sleep apnea.
The Docbraces Difference
At Docbraces, we offer family discounts, flexible hours, a T-Link online patient portal and a patient rewards hub incentive program. We are dedicated to providing our patients with the high-quality, individualized, orthodontic care they need to reach their aesthetic and dental goals.
Docbraces has state-of-the art facilities located throughout the Maritime provinces and in Ontario. New patients receive free consultations and second opinions are complimentary as well. As long as your insurance company has the system and processes in place, we are happy to bill your insurance provider directly. In addition, we offer interest-free financing plans that do not require a credit check.