How Orthodontics Can Treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea
We often associate severe snoring with adults, and let’s face it: men get most of the blame for being loud snorers.
But some children snore, too, and that snoring could be a sign of sleep-disordered breathing such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea – a condition in which a person’s upper airway gets blocked repeatedly while sleeping.
The diaphragm and chest muscles work harder to open the obstructed airway and pull air into the lungs during OSA episodes, and breathing typically begins again with an audible gasp, snort or body jerk. The long-term effects of these episodes can be serious because they interfere with sound sleep. They can reduce oxygen flow to vital organs and cause irregular heart rhythms.
"These health risks are one reason why sleep apnea in children is starting to get talked about more often,” says Buffalo Grove orthodontics expert Dr. Yan Razdolsky. “We need to bring more attention to this issue because some studies show that about 80 percent of sleep-disordered breathing cases aren’t reported to family doctors or pediatricians. I don’t think enough parents know that snoring is worth mentioning to their child’s dentist or orthodontist, either.”
Dr. Razdolsky says sleep-disordered breathing is another condition that could be diagnosed first by a dentist or orthodontist, since so many signs appear in the oral cavity.
Children at high risk for sleep-disordered breathing such as OSA often exhibit one or more of these characteristics:
- reduced quality of life
- smaller air passageways
- narrow upper arches
- higher palatal vaults
- smaller teeth
- longer faces
Undiagnosed or untreated OSA can have a negative impact not just on your child’s smile, but on his quality of life,behavior, mental function, the cardiovascular system and lipid regulation.Children with sleep-disordered breathing are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to a study published in the December 2013 issue of the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics.
Orthodontists are experts at evaluating jaw position, tooth movement and the use of functional appliances to correct a host of bite and alignment issues. That’s why more attention is focusing on taking an orthodontic approach to treat children with milder forms of this condition. One popular treatment method is rapid maxillary expansion.
Expanding the palate can help correct crossbite and create more room to reduce underbite, while also helping to open airways slightly.
Removable oral appliances also can help keep airways open while your child sleeps. More severe cases of sleep-disordered breathing may require other types of treatment.
It is important to note that in many cases, children need to have a sleep study performed and a proper diagnosis given before orthodontic treatment recommendations are made, Dr. Razdolsky says. After that, Razdolsky may work together with a qualified sleep apnea physician to map out a treatment plan.
Children and adults with more severe cases of sleep-disordered breathing may not benefit from orthodontic treatment and use of oral appliances. Some patients must be treated with a machine that provides continuous positive airway pressure – commonly referred to as CPAP. This machine includes a nose piece or mask that applies continuous air pressure to prevent the airway from collapsing when breathing during sleep.
Surgery also may be called for in severe cases.
If your child snores while sleeping, you should mention this to your dentist or orthodontist so an evaluation and be performed to determine if he would benefit from oral appliances, orthodontics or other forms of treatment.
Please call our office today if you have questions about this important topic, or wish to schedule a consultation with Dr. Razdolsky.