Does your child always seem to be drowsy, even after sleeping eight hours or longer? Does he or she seem to snore unusually loudly or complain of symptoms like frequent headaches or sore throats? Are there behavioral problems, such as excessive irritability or difficulty paying attention? It’s entirely possible that sleep apnea is at fault for these issues.
Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person stops breathing repeatedly during sleep, which causes the body to be deprived of oxygen and can be connected to some serious health conditions. It often occurs in patients who are obese, so if your child falls into that category, it might make sleep apnea a more likely diagnosis.
If your child has symptoms of sleep apnea, or if you’ve noticed strange breathing patterns while your child is asleep, you should arrange for your child to complete a sleep study to confirm the diagnosis. Your family’s pediatrician may be able to recommend a resource for this. After you know that your child has obstructive sleep apnea – when the airway is partially blocked, causing the apneic episodes – you can consult with an oral surgeon to learn about potential solutions for treatment.
Although an oral surgeon is often consulted in cases of sleep apnea, that doesn’t necessarily mean that an invasive intervention will be recommended. The surgeon can examine the structure of your child’s jaw and other facial and oral structures to pinpoint the specific issue causing the airway obstruction. Your child may be able to get relief from sleep apnea by wearing a custom-designed appliance that holds the tongue or jaw forward during sleep. Weight loss can also reduce the likelihood of sleep apnea by reducing the amount of excess tissue at the rear of the throat, which is one of the conditions contributing to the obstruction.
If your child has demonstrated signs of having sleep apnea, schedule a sleep study to confirm the diagnosis. Then, contact our office to set up an evaluation with one of our specialists who can determine the factors contributing to your child’s sleep apnea and recommend effective treatment.