Does your child snore, breathe through their mouth during sleep, or have dark circles under their eyes? Are they fidgety or hyperactive during the day? Are they frequently ill, or do they suffer from chronic allergies? All of these and more can be symptoms of sleep disordered breathing.
Healthy Start is a great approach to help children with sleep disordered breathing and other types of sleep problems. If you live in Columbus, OH and think your child may have sleep apnea, call (614) 848-5001 or contact us online for an appointment. Dr. Michael Firouzian can perform a screening and recommend the first steps for treatment.
Sleep Apnea in Children
Sleep apnea refers to a sleep disorder in which someone periodically stops breathing while asleep, sometimes hundreds of times in a single night. This can lead to daytime fatigue, cognitive problems, and increased risk of cardiovascular problems. In children, it can seriously impair learning and development if untreated.
There isn’t one singular cause of sleep apnea in children, but there are certain things dentists can look for when screening for symptoms. The position of the mouth and jaw impacts how open the airway is, so dentists pay particular attention to the tongue posture and palate. Ideally, the tongue should rest against the palate. If a child develops poor tongue posture, their palate may not develop properly — and since the palate is the floor of the nasal cavity, nasal breathing could also be affected.
Unfortunately, as with adults it is common for children’s sleep apnea to go undiagnosed. This is partly because children display symptoms of fatigue very differently than adults. While adults with sleep disorders may appear sluggish during the day, children are more likely to respond by becoming hyperactive, fidgety, or disruptive. A diagnosis of ADHD can be a red flag for sleep apnea. Bedwetting that either persists or resumes as a child gets older may also be a warning sign.
Snoring, however, is a hallmark symptom of sleep apnea in people of any age. If you notice your child snoring, sleeping with their mouth open, or even talking in their sleep, these are signs that you may want to have them screened for sleep apnea. Other symptoms include bedwetting, night sweats, teeth grinding, and teeth clenching.
Treating Children’s Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea in children may seem more like a pediatrician’s domain than a dentist’s, but in fact, many of the warning signs (and treatments) for sleep apnea are in the mouth. Dentists can screen for sleep apnea, and then communicate with a pediatrician to schedule a sleep study.
Once a child has been diagnosed with sleep apnea, an experienced dentist like Dr. Firouzian can determine what treatment will be most effective. The goal of dental treatment for sleep apnea is to train or shape the mouth, tongue, jaw, and nasal cavity to facilitate easy breathing and an open airway.
Each child is different and may need different treatment, but the Healthy Start program is one flexible option that’s a great fit for many patients. Healthy Start is an alternative to traditional orthodontics that eliminates many of the downsides of braces or headgear. These soft plastic aligners are comfortable and can be worn during sleep, and then removed during the day. They won’t impact your child’s diet, and can be started as early as age two so problems can be solved as early as possible.
Healthy Start promotes proper facial development and trains the jaw and tongue to rest in a position that keeps the airway open, making it an effective treatment for sleep apnea. Not only that, but Healthy Start can also straighten crooked teeth, eliminating the need for future cosmetic orthodontics. It’s also more affordable than braces, and is usually covered by insurance.