The Orthodontist’s Role in Recognizing Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Children

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a disorder where there is partial or complete blockage of the airway during sleep.   Children with OSA have repeated episodes of airway obstruction during sleep and may snore, gasp, snort or even stop breathing. This leads to slowing of the heart rate, brain arousal, a drop in blood oxygen level and disruption of sleep.  According to The American Academy of Otolaryngology approximately 10 percent of children snore regularly and up to 4 percent have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Children

The National Sleep Foundation reports that children with OSA can be difficult to wake up, display morning irritability, suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness and have frequent morning headaches.  Additionally, these children are commonly inattentive and display disruptive behavior that can lead to school or social problems.   Many of the symptoms of OSA are similar to those of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.   In addition to the behavioral and social difficulties associated with OSA there are other consequences such as slowed growth and development, cardiovascular problems and increased risk for obesity.

Risk factors for OSA are:

  •  Enlarged tonsils and adenoids
  • Abnormalities of the jaws or tongue
  • Childhood obesity
  • Neuromuscular deficits such as Cerebral Palsy
  • Allergies or asthma

Orthodontists are in a unique position to recognize children who may suffer from OSA.  As certified specialists in the irregularities of the teeth and in the morphology of the jawbones, orthodontists understand the symptoms and characteristics of children with OSA can help identify patients at risk.  Also, orthodontists see their patients frequently and this repeated exposure puts them at an advantage when it comes to identifying the symptoms and distinct craniofacial indicators associated with OSA.

If you suspect OSA in your child be sure to alert your orthodontist.  She can determine whether your child may be at risk, discuss possible orthodontic corrections and refer your child to medical specialist for treatment.

If you have concerns about OSA in your child, Dr. Lempert provides complimentary orthodontic screenings for children in her Swedesboro office.  You can visit her website at www.lempertsmile.com to learn more about her practice.

Dr Lempert
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dr. Lempert graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Human Biology.   She received her Master of Science in Oral Biology Degree, Certificate in Orthodontics, and Doctor of Dental Medicine Degree from Temple University School of Dentistry.