Kids need sleep (and lots of it), but sometimes they just can’t get it no matter how early they go to bed. One reason for this is pediatric obstructive sleep apnea. This form of sleep apnea keeps kids from maintaining a deep, restful sleep because they continually wake up throughout the night due to blocked or partially blocked breathing while sleeping.

Causes and Symptoms

First off, the cause of sleep apnea in children versus adults is generally different. While it is caused by obesity for many adults, enlarged or swollen adenoids and tonsils are the main cause of sleep apnea in children. When children don’t get the restful sleep they need, they react differently than adults. The following symptoms are reported by Mayo Clinic and are separated from daytime and nighttime.

Daytime Symptoms

  • Learning problems
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Difficulty gaining weight

Nighttime Symptoms

  • Bedwetting
  • Night terrors
  • Snoring
  • Restless sleep

If not treated, pediatric obstructive sleep apnea can cause heart problems, hinder the growth of the child, or even lead to death (as an extreme case).

If your child is constantly tired after what should be a full night’s rest, or if they have behavioral problems throughout the day, sleep apnea could be to blame. If you notice these symptoms in your child, take them to the doctor to get the problem sorted before it becomes a bigger issue.

How Can Orthodontics Help With Pediatric Sleep Apnea?

An orthodontist can often be the first line of defense after the parent when it comes to a pediatric sleep apnea diagnosis. The orthodontist will screen patients by asking questions and examining the structure of the mouth. They will often ask the parent to make note of any snoring or breathing irregularity if they suspect an issue even if the parent hasn’t yet noted any symptoms.

After the diagnosis of pediatric sleep apnea is given, depending on the cause of the condition, an orthodontist can often help with prevention and treatment. About half of all pediatric patients with obstructive sleep apnea have a bony abnormality that can oftentimes be corrected with appropriate orthodontic treatment. Since orthodontists have the ability to manipulate the bony structures of the mouth it is often the most effective and least invasive way to treat sleep apnea in children.

Sleep apnea in children can be caused by a host of different issues. It can be the result of inflamed tonsils or adenoids or other factors. It can be a dangerous condition that can affect your child’s physical and mental development. Recognizing and treating the condition early will save you and your child a lot of stress and help give your child the best start in life. Your orthodontist can often recognize and help guide treatment if they suspect that it may be an issue for your child. For these reasons, it might be a good idea for your child to visit an orthodontist if they develop these symptoms even if they have no cosmetic issues. 

Our team at Virginia Orthodontic Partners wants to help your child get the best sleep possible! Schedule a complimentary consultation today.