Orthodontics for Sleep Apnea

You know orthodontics can help make teeth straight, but did you know that snorers also can benefit?Sleep Apnea Orthodontics

Sleep apnea is an under-diagnosed problem, often mistaken for “just snoring.” The American Sleep Apnea Association reports that up to 4 percent of children may suffer from this undiagnosed condition.

The most common type in children is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), in which the tongue and throat muscles get so relaxed that they block the airway. In severe cases, the results can be deadly, but other, less-serious symptoms include lower oxygen levels, hypertension, heart palpitations and problems with attention, behavior and memory.

In some cases, children are incorrectly diagnosed with ADHD or ADD. Sometimes children have their tonsils removed to correct OSA, but that doesn’t always fix the problem. In fact, your orthodontist might be the best person to address this issue in your child.

With the latest technology, cone beam computed tomography (CBCT), a digital image of the head, including airways, can capture exactly what’s happening.

Problem? Solved.

The earlier any mouth issue is caught, the better. Widening the roof of the mouth, which just happens to be the bottom of the nasal passages, can bring relief. Plus, it’s much easier to do when children are young and their bodies are still growing.

An orthodontist may use The Damon System or palatal expanders to achieve this. Other patients have a smaller upper arch from tongue thrusting, and a simple tool or even orthodontic exercises can correct this bad habit.

The goal is to maximize airflow when the child is in deep sleep. Parents can keep an eye out for snoring — by far the most common sign that a child may have sleep apnea. However, do know that not all snoring means a sleep disorder. In rare instances, snoring in a child is normal. If a child seems constantly tired, wants to nap excessively or is sluggish, that’s another sign of sleep apnea.

When to See an Orthodontist

No matter what, an orthodontist should be consulted by the time a child is 7 years old. Perfectly straight teeth with no oral issues is rare, so it’s best to get checked. It’s also easier to address problems at a younger age, whether it’s a sleep problem or a bite issue. As an adult, orthodontics also might help with sleep apnea, although the process might be more invasive and take longer.

If you suspect your child has sleep apnea or if you’re wondering about your own sleep issues, it’s always beneficial to get as many experts as possible to weigh in. Call Johnson Elite Orthodontics for a free consultation, and for all your orthodontic needs.