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Dental Care: Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Children

Dental Care: Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Children

June 7, 2021

Not many people consider that young children can also have sleep apnea. Pediatric obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which your child’s breathing is partially or completely blocked repeatedly during sleep. This is due to a narrowing or blockage of the upper airway during sleep. As adults, sleep apnea can manifest as daytime sleepiness and can lead to health problems such as cardiac disease and depression. Children are more likely to have behavioral problems. The underlying cause in adults is often obesity, while in children the most common underlying condition is enlargement of the adenoids and tonsils.

Early diagnosis and treatment is important to prevent complications that an affect children’s growth, cognitive development, and behavior. During sleep, symptoms of pediatric sleep apnea might include snoring, pauses in breathing, restless sleep, snorting, coughing or choking, mouth breathing, bed wetting and sleep terrors. Infants and young children with obstructive sleep apnea don’t always snore. They might just have disturbed sleep.

During the day, children with sleep apnea might perform poorly in school, have difficulty paying attention, have learning problems, have behavioral problems, have poor weight gain, and be hyperactive.

Failure to treat pediatric sleep apnea can lead to heart problems, behavioral problems, and facial deformities. Treatment is usually simple with the surgical removal of the enlarged adenoids and tonsils. Early and proper diagnosis can be very beneficial to children. There is a very compelling video on entitled “Finding Connor Deegan — AAPMD” that addresses behavioral problems in children with sleep apnea. Have some Kleenex ready as this video is a tear jerker. If your child is having any of these issues, please have them checked by a qualified physician or dentist.


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