Can Children Have Sleep Apnea? How an Oral Appliance Can Help
Sleep apnea is a concerning condition for anyone that has it. Many people may not know that they have sleep apnea until they’re older and someone recognizes the signs of it. It’s also more common for people to associate sleep apnea with older people who potentially have other medical conditions.
So you may be wondering: can children have sleep apnea? Children can just as easily have sleep apnea. This can be a major concern for parents, but there is a way to help them. Here’s an overview of sleep apnea and how your child can benefit from an oral appliance.
Sleep apnea is when someone stops breathing during sleep. This typically occurs because there is a blockage in the airway. Sleep apnea affects many children and is most commonly found in children between ages two and six, but it can occur at any age.
Children who are overweight have a higher risk of sleep apnea. As well as children with a small jaw, craniofacial syndromes, muscle weakness (hypotonia), or Down syndrome.
The most common reason why a child may have sleep apnea is due to enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Tonsils sit in the back of the throat, and the adenoids are in the back of the nose. During sleep, there is a considerable decrease in muscle tone, which can affect the airway and breathing.
Children with this can often have difficulty breathing when awake, but the challenge will increase during sleep when their tonsils and adenoids block the airway. The obstruction makes the flow of air more difficult and increases the work the child has to do to breathe.
Many short pauses in breathing (typically lasting a few seconds) cause brief arousal, increasing muscle tone and allowing the airway to reopen and resume breathing. Although the number of minutes that this occurs each night might be small, the repeated disruptions can result in a poor night’s sleep. This can lead to problems during the day, such as your child not being able to be completely awake.
Many parents may attribute sleep apnea to their child being a very restless sleeper. However, when their child’s sleep apnea continues for longer periods, it can affect their quality of sleep, brain development, and ability to complete tasks.
What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea can be difficult to determine unless you’re around your child while they sleep. This doesn’t mean you have to check on them multiple times throughout the night. But you might notice it if they nap or sleep around you. The most common symptoms of childhood sleep apnea can include:
Snoring that is loud or noisy breathing
Periods of not breathing even if their chest is moving
Mouth breathing that is completely blocked by their tonsils or adenoids
Restlessness during sleep, that is normally called “tossing and turning”
Sleeping in odd positions, such as their neck bending backward
Behavior problems such as irritation or difficulty concentrating, or sleepiness
Problems with their schoolwork that could look like they’re “slow” or “lazy”
Potential for bedwetting during the night
Frequent infections with tonsils, adenoids, or ear infections
Why Is Sleep Apnea a Problem?
Although you know it’s not good for your child to stop breathing in the middle of the night, there are health complications that can occur due to untreated sleep apnea. The regular symptoms typically include continual exhaustion that hinders your child’s ability to focus and stay awake. However, the more serious conditions that sleep apnea can eventually lead to include:
Consistent daytime fatigue
High blood pressure or heart problems
Type 2 diabetes
Complications with medications and surgery
These severe health conditions can occur later in life as sleep apnea continues to affect them. It may not be guaranteed that they ever have these conditions, but as sleep apnea can be easily treated, you can help prevent these issues for your child.
If you’re worried about how your child’s sleep apnea can affect them, you can see your family dentist for a customized oral appliance. Your dentist can look and analyze the best treatment option for your child.
You can bring your child in for a customized mouthguard at South Anchorage Dental Center. This will go over the teeth on their lower jaw to push it forward and open the bite and airway. Doing this can help minimize snoring and treat mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.
Having a mouthguard for your child while they sleep can have several benefits, including:
Reduce the number of pauses in breathing (apneas) or episodes of shallow breathing (hypopnea)
Significantly improve blood oxygen levels
Decrease the frequency and volume of snoring
Remedy daytime sleepiness so they can focus on school
Mouthguards are typically considered safe, and getting them custom-fitted by South Anchorage Dental Center will reduce side effects. However, adjusting to the mouthguard can be difficult. Your child may experience the following side effects in the first few months:
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) discomfort
These side effects should go away after the first two months. If they don’t, you can bring your child in for another appointment, and we can make adjustments to their mouthguard for a better fit.
The solution of a mouthguard can be provided to you through your family dentist. They can also help you identify when sleep apnea may affect your child.
How Can South Anchorage Dental Center Help Your Family?
South Anchorage Dental Center is a great place for your whole family to get dental care. You can make one stop for your whole family, rather than going to several different locations. No matter your age, we can help you maintain your amazing teeth.
We offer a wide variety of services that can benefit your child. They can get regular dental checkups to ensure their teeth are healthy and growing, providing long-lasting dental hygiene.
At South Anchorage Dental Center, we have dental services that you can afford. With our Dental Savings Program, you can save money for the whole family.
We also offer emergency dental services that allow you to receive care even when you don’t have an appointment. No matter when, if you or your loved one has a dental emergency, you can call our office so we can restore your beautiful smile as soon as possible.
If your child is suffering from sleep apnea to where it’s affecting their grades at school, ability to play with friends, or even stay awake, then a mouthguard could be the right treatment. Don’t wait for their sleep apnea to affect them, get the easy solution.