Sleep and Children-Diagnosis & Treatment Alexandria VA
Determining whether a child has Sleep Apnea
This is what obstructive tonsils look like when a child says ahhh…
The Doctor will conduct a thorough exam and review the child’s medical history. If the doctor finds that there is most likely a breathing disorder, he will write a prescription for a sleep test or polysomnogram to diagnose sleep apnea. There are two kinds of polysomnograms: an overnight test at a sleep center that involves monitoring brain waves, muscle tension, eye movement, gasping, snoring and tracking the respiration and oxygen levels in the blood. The other test is one that the patient can take at home.
Treating children with dentofacial orthopedic orthodontics
Unlike yesterday’s orthodontic treatments, orthopedic orthodontics functions to stimulate proper development in the jaws, tongue function and breathing habits. Orthopedic orthodontics works to find the ideal positioning of the jaw and helps to prevent future difficulties with the jaw joints (TMJ dysfunctions) while the child is still growing.
Some children have facial malformations or asymmetries due to obstructions in the airways and other problems that result in sleep apnea. Sometimes a child has enlarged tonsils and adenoids that can lead to mouth breathing, as the child adapts his/her body to taking in air. By resting against the roof of the mouth, the tongue (a muscle) creates a wide palate as we grow. However, in compromised airways the tongue will lie on the floor of the mouth if the child is breathing through his/her mouth, preventing the arches from widening and allowing appropriate room for the adult teeth coming in and preventing a broad enough airway.
Mouth Breathing in Children
Is your child a frequent mouth breather? If so, this condition could potentially cause serious long-term health repercussions. Though relatively common and often overlooked, upper airway obstruction (mouth breathing) is a primary cause of facial and dental deformities and irregularities.
Consequences of Mouth Breathing
According to Dr. Yosh Jefferson in the January/February 2010 issue of General Dentistry[BN1] , mouth breathing is more serious than many people realize.
Habitual mouth breathing in children can negatively impact normal facial growth and physiologic health. If left untreated, mouth breathing may cause children to develop long, narrow faces, narrow mouths, high palatal vaults, dental malocclusion[BN2] , (bad bite) or gummy smiles, to name a few.
In addition to various types of abnormal facial growth and dental malocclusions, mouth breathing may cause a host of additional medical problems, including:
- Lower oxygen concentration in the blood, which can cause high blood pressure and/or cardiac failure
- Delayed growth and/or development
- Sleep disorders and/or sleep apnea
How Do I Know if My Child Is a Mouth Breather?
According to Dr. Jefferson, children who mouth breathe do not sleep well at night due to obstructed airways. As a result, this lack of sleep can negatively impact their physical growth and academic performance. Often, children who mouth breathe are mistakenly diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and hyperactivity. Mouth breathers may not complain about—or even notice—their own mouth breathing because they have grown accustomed to it.
Signs and Symptoms of Mouth Breathing May Include:
- Open mouth when sleeping
- Dry lips
- Narrow palate and dental crowding
- Increasingly long, narrow face
- Excessive fatigue and/or irritability during the day
- Difficulty concentrating
- Poor academic performance
- Behavioral problems
- Frequent sinus and/or ear infections
How Do You Treat Mouth Breathing?
Dr. Jefferson stresses the importance of screening and diagnosing mouth breathing in both adults and children as young as five years of age. In diagnosing and treating mouth breathing in children, most health experts believe that applying a multidisciplinary approach involving pediatricians, physicians, dentists, and ear-nose-throat (ENT) specialists yields the most positive results.
Treatment, Part I:
Upon diagnosing the mouth breathing and sleep disorder problems, children should be referred to an ENT for further evaluation and treatment. In many cases, surgically removing swollen tonsils and adenoids—the first line of treatment—will improve nasal respiration, sleep, behavior problems, and academic performance.
Treatment, Part II:
Following the surgical removal of the tonsils and adenoids, the second line of treatment should then be provided by dentists, who can correct facial and dental abnormalities with functional appliances.
Scientific literature shows that this combined therapy of adenotonsillectomy and expanding the palate significantly improves sleep and nose breathing while alleviating the symptoms of ADHD.