What is Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB) and Sleep Apnea in Children?
Getting adequate, restful sleep is important at any age.
Know the Symptoms
DOES YOUR CHILD:
- HAVE LOUD BREATHING WHEN ASLEEP?
- HAVE NASAL CONGESTION?
- BREATHE MOSTLY THROUGH HIS OR HER MOUTH?
- HAVE YOU EVER OBSERVED YOUR CHILD PAUSE IN HIS OR HER BREATHING DURING SLEEP?
- IS YOUR CHILD A RESTLESS SLEEPER?
- IS YOUR CHILD EXCESSIVELY SLEEPY?
- IS YOUR CHILD HYPERACTIVE OR INATTENTIVE?
SDB can manifest itself in a variety of symptoms that can be easily overlooked, misdiagnosed, and most unfortunately, left untreated.
Importance of Sleeping and an Open Airway
Sleeping and breathing properly are crucial parts of a child’s growth and development.
Many significant growth and developmental milestones occur during our first 18 months of life. In fact, 60% of child’s facial development is completed by age 6, and 90% by age 12.
As children grow, proper breathing is essential to their health, development, and educational success. Early detection and correction of airway problems can be integral to optimizing this fundamental and critical physiology. Airway evaluation is an important part of the process.
Many parents aren’t aware of the importance of ensuring their child’s airways are clear and free of obstructions. Children who cannot breathe well through their nose tend to breathe through their mouth. This sets up a chain of events which may severely impact not only the health of a child but also the way a child’s facial features develop and ultimately the way a child looks as an adult.
We often forget how strong the tongue can be, and what a major role it plays in breathing. The effects of an underdeveloped airway are revealed in many ways. When a child is breathing through their mouth, the tongue often positions itself snugly in the lower jaw to allow more oxygen to enter. This in turn changes the growth of the lower jaw, enabling it to grow more vertically and make the face look longer.
At the same time, since nasal breathing is severely compromised, the upper jaw and midface (the nasal bones, cheek bones, and bones supporting the tissue of the face) fail to develop at a normal rate because the natural growth stimulant of air flow through the nose is absent. This results in a growth deficiency of the upper jaw and midface which, added to the long facial growth from the lower jaw, impacts facial balance of a child and later as an adult.
Often, the obvious signs of airway problems go unnoticed. Here are a few common symptoms that clue us of airway concerns and potential sleep disordered breathing (SDB):
- Mouth breathing – Child often has dry/chapped lips which stay apart at rest as well as bad breath
- Venous pooling (dark circles) beneath the eyes
- Head posture – head postures forward and/or tipping the forehead backwards while sleeping
- Tonsil and adenoid problems – Chronic sinus problems or throat problems
- Snoring – children do not usually snore
- Loud grinding of teeth during sleep
- Multiple Inner ear infections, likely due to reflux in the eustachian tube
- Restricted tongue/lip mobility
- Trouble concentrating in school
- Poor nutrition
- Picky Eater
It’s important to be mindful of any signs or symptoms your child may display. When it comes to your child’s health, don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion — especially when airway evaluations are complimentary. Call us today at Ashburn Children’s Dentistry to schedule a free airway evaluation for your child.
Diagnosing airway problems
Determining if your child is dealing with underdeveloped airways and poor tongue posture can be challenging. Children and adolescents often have a higher chance of developing breathing problems if they have a family history of sleep apnea. This risk also increases if your child is overweight, has enlarged tonsils, or has narrow airways in their nose, throat, or mouth.
Often, symptoms such as excessive sleepiness or hyperactivity are enough to warrant airway treatment. However, oral signs of sleep disorder will also be cause for sleep evaluation and treatment. In more severe forms, children’s airway problems can actually lead to sleep apnea.
Oral Signs and Symptoms
- Mouth Breathing- Lips apart
- Chapped/Dry Lips
- Lip licking
- Habits such as nail biting, thumb sucking, or prolonged pacifier use
- Dark circles beneath the eyes
- Forward head posture
- High, narrow arched palate
- Small lower jaw
- Tongue tie/lip tie
- Tongue thrusting
- Scalloped tongue
- Deviated septum
- Enlarged tonsils and adenoids
- Chronic sinus issues and allergies
- Teeth clenching/grinding
- Worn down and pitted teeth due to acid reflux
- Difficulty swallowing
- Susceptible to cavities in spite of good oral hygiene practices and non-sugary diet
Why visit the dentist to treat airway problems?
Although it may seem odd to visit the dentist to treat symptoms of sleep-related problems, pediatric dentists undergo years of training around how to treat symptoms affecting the craniofacial form and function. During development, the airway, mode of breathing, and malocclusion are so interrelated that they should be treated early and holistically by your dentist.
We utilize the ICat FLEX 3D imaging machine to help diagnose our patients. This cutting-edge technology is able to see the jaw joints, airway, sinuses, nose and more. With these comprehensive images, clinical signs and symptoms, our experienced staff will be able to determine if your child is experiencing sleep and developmental issues caused by a blocked airway. For each day that goes by for children suffering from restricted airways, the condition worsens, their potential growth and development is diminished, and the window of time narrows to treat them conservatively.
Our team prides ourselves on precision diagnosis and treatment of airway issues. We check for proper development of the jaw and harmony of the face. We also screen for breathing and oral habits which result in abnormal dentofacial development with age. By working with the natural growth instead of against it, we can prevent problems from the beginning– or becoming worse– and give your child a lifetime of healthy smiles and deep breathing!
At Ashburn Children’s Dentistry, we want to help treat the root cause of your child’s sleeping or breathing problems. The main goals of treatment are to use therapies that can help reposition the jaw or tongue and keep the upper airway open. Benefits to early evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment include:
- Eliminating harmful habits and factors influencing growth
- Guiding growth for optimal cranial, jaw, TMJ positioning and facial development
- Preventing crooked/crowded teeth, thereby creating beautiful smiles
- Airway health and oxygen sufficiency
- Teeth straightening for lifetime retention- preventing Orthodontic relapse
Every child is unique and our team will create personalized treatments based on your child’s needs. We utilize integrative, advanced, research-based therapies to deliver the results each child deserves. Therapies include but are not limited to oral appliances, frenum reduction, and myofunctional therapy to promote proper nasal breathing, growth, and development. If circumstances allow, we work with physicians, myofunctional therapist, ENT doctors, osteopathic physicians, and other providers to help your child achieve a predictably healthy smile for a lifetime!
At Ashburn Children’s Dentistry, we have made it our duty to educate parents and help our young patients. Dr. Lynda and the ACD team are enthusiastic about partnering with many of families to address the root cause(s) of their children’s airway compromises. If you think that your child is suffering from pediatric obstructive sleep apnea, contact us today to schedule a complimentary airway evaluation. Our amazing staff can help diagnose your child and determine the best course of treatment. We look forward to hearing from you!