Have you noticed some irregularities in the way your child sleeps, such as snoring, breathing pauses, or gasping for air while sleeping? Does your child have trouble staying focused? Does he or she seem consistently tired during the day? If you have answered yes to these questions, your child may be suffering from Pediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The American Academy of Pediatrics has estimated that 1 to 4% of children have sleep breathing disorders and 3-12% are consistent snorers. Children who have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) may be experiencing pauses while breathing of extended length, which can be extremely dangerous to their health. If left untreated, OSA can lead to a number of serious long-term effects, including ADHD, aggressive behavior, poor performance in school, compromised growth, depression, and a number of other concerns.
The good news is Dr. Michael Fulbright is a diplomate of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine and at Fulbright Snoring & Sleep Solutions he offers a comprehensive program designed to treat pediatric sleep apnea. Our practice can examine your child in a complimentary sleep apnea consultation to determine whether this condition may be present. If so, Dr. Fulbright offers a number of advanced treatment options designed to ensure your child’s breathing passages are functioning normally and help them attain a healthy, restful night’s sleep.
What are the signs and symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in children?
Similar to adults suffering from OSA, Obstructive Sleep Apnea in children is generally characterized by oral and nasal airway obstructions that occur during sleep. Since many of the symptoms associated with sleep apnea may not be immediately associated with a sleep disorder, the condition often goes undiagnosed. This makes it vital to seek an evaluation as soon as warning signs are apparent. Symptoms and signs of OSA may include:
- Breathing pauses
- Night sweats
- Bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching)
- Choking or gasping for breath
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Growth problems
- Mouth breathing
- Frequent naps
- Restless sleep
- Mood swings
Children who have underdeveloped upper and lower jaws seem to be particularly prone to sleep apnea. Structural problems caused by lack of development in these areas can lead to the jaws pushing back in the oral cavity and narrowing or closing the airway. Obesity is also a risk factor for sleep apnea in children, just as it is in adults. Genetics may also be a risk factor for Pediatric Sleep Apnea, and being around tobacco smoke may increase a child’s risk for developing the condition as well.
What are the treatment options for Pediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
During the initial consultation with Dr. Fulbright, your child will be thoroughly evaluated and he will answer all of your questions. Dr. Fulbright may also recommend a polysomnogram, which involves a painless series of tests that can be performed during sleep. Advanced treatment options for sleep apnea include:
- Adenotonsillectomy – In many cases, an effective treatment plan for pediatric OSA involves the surgical removal of tonsils and adenoids, followed by an oral appliance and orthodontic therapy. An adenotonsillectomy can remove common obstructions to breathing that often contribute to the symptoms of sleep apnea. In some cases, sleep apnea conditions continue even after the adenotonsillectomy is performed, which is why an oral appliance (palate expander) is often recommended as an adjunct to surgery.
- HealthyStart™ System of Removable Oral Devices – The HealthyStart™ System uses three phases of removable oral devices to achieve early orthodontic/orthopedic intervention for children with disordered breathing symptoms. HealthyStart™ appliances are designed to:
- Correct the growth and development of the lower jaw
- Enlarge the airway and improve breathing
- Create better oral habits
- Expand the arches to make room for incoming teeth
- Provide proper alignment for the first four permanent teeth as they grow in
The clear, soft plastic devices are customized and designed to be comfortable and provide gentle correction, so that your child is able to wear them throughout the night. As treatment goals are reached, the devices are upgraded to the next phase until treatment is complete.
- Non-Invasive Sleep Apnea Oral Appliance (Palate Expander) – A palate expander is a removable appliance that can expand the hard palate over time. This can open up the airway and reduce sleep apnea symptoms. Palate expanders can improve tongue space and diminish nasal obstruction. The device can rapidly expand the roof of the mouth in a period of about six months to one year. This option can be especially helpful for adolescents whose facial bone development is fairly complete; however, palate expanders have also been effectively utilized in children as young as six years of age.
- Alternative CPAP/BIPAP Therapy – CPAP is the acronym for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It is a device that is worn during sleep and is designed to continuously supply a mild flow of air to keep breathing passages open and functioning normally. This treatment is much more common for adults suffering from sleep apnea and is only rarely ideal for children.
- BIPAP stands for Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure. This option is very similar to a CPAP machine; however, the BIPAP has two air pressure settings instead of one. BIPAP treatments are typically prescribed for patients who have not responded well to the CPAP and/or those who suffer from conditions such as cardiopulmonary disorders, lung disorders, or certain types of neuromuscular disorders.
Learn More About Our Sleep Apnea Treatments
Advanced treatments for Pediatric Sleep Apnea often prove very effective at reducing the effects of this common condition and decreasing the risk of serious threats to a child’s life, health, and livelihood. If your child is diagnosed with sleep apnea, our practice can help you determine the best course of action for his or her needs.
Contact Fulbright Snoring & Sleep Solutions
If you would like to learn more about pediatric sleep apnea, we encourage you to contact Fulbright Snoring & Sleep Solutions today. We will be happy to answer your questions and address your concerns. We can also assist you in setting up a complimentary consultation with Dr. Michael Fulbright. An accurate diagnosis is the first step toward helping your child achieve a healthier, more restful night’s sleep.