What Does Sleep Apnea Look Like in a Child?

What Does Sleep Apnea Look Like in a Child?

Is your child snoring heavily at night or have you heard that ADHD can be linked to childhood sleep apnea and you think your little one may be a candidate? Sleep apnea displays differently in children than it does in adults. Take a look at some of the symptoms that may indicate your child has sleep apnea.

Did you know that 1-4% of children may have sleep apnea, many of them between the ages of 2-8 years old?

American Sleep Apnea Association

Whereas obesity is the primary risk factor for sleep apnea in adults, for children, enlarged adenoids and tonsils are more likely to blame, although some children’s sleep apnea can be linked back to obesity. Other risk factors include down syndrome, abnormalities in the skull or face, cerebral palsy, sickle cell disease, neuromuscular disease, a history of a low birth weight, and a family history of obstructive sleep apnea, according to the Mayo Clinic. Dental issues can also be underlying conditions. To learn more, read Dr. Mandanas’ blog about dental signs of sleep apnea.

Nighttime Symptoms of Childhood Sleep Apnea

Your child doesn’t have to struggle with snoring to have sleep apnea; they may simply be experiencing extremely disturbed sleep. Nighttime symptoms include:

  • Snoring
  • Heavy Breathing
  • Chronic Mouth Breathing
  • Long Pauses in Breathing
  • Snorting, Coughing, or Choking
  • Sleeping in Odd Positions
  • Restless Sleep (Tossing & Turning)
  • Teeth Grinding
  • Sweating
  • Bed Wetting
  • Sleep Walking
  • Night Terrors

Daytime Symptoms Childhood Sleep Apnea

Adult, daytime sleep apnea symptoms typically revolve around fatigue, but childhood symptoms typically have to do with behavioral issues. Daytime symptoms include:

  • Difficulty Waking Up
  • Naps
  • Mouth Breathing
  • Nasal-ey Voice
  • Behavioral Problems
  • Hyperactivity
  • Difficulty Paying Attention
  • ADHD
  • Irritability
  • Cognitive Issues
  • Headaches
  • Learning Problems
  • Poor Performance at School
  • Social Issues
  • Poor Weight Gain
  • Stunted Growth
  • Frequent Infections

Dental Treatments for Childhood Sleep Apnea

Many parents do not treat their child’s sleep apnea under the assumption that they will “grow out of it,” however, untreated sleep apnea has many short-term and long-term consequences for children.

Children need restful sleep for healthy cognitive and physical growth and development. When they are deprived of this, they can struggle with behavioral and health issues in their childhood and in their adult life.

One of the most common treatments for childhood sleep apnea is the CPAP machine, although some cases require surgery or medicine. Unfortunately, many children are “CPAP rejects,” which means they cannot tolerate the CPAP machine because it is uncomfortable and annoying. Dr. Mandanas and many other integrative dentists like her offer an effective alternative to CPAP.

For many children, Dr. Mandanas can provide a dental appliance that pushes their lower jaw forward to keep the tissue in the mouth from collapsing and blocking the airway when it relaxes at night. This appliance is far more comfortable than CPAP and Dr. Mandanas has found that her child patients have little trouble adhering to the treatment.

When your child sees Dr. Mandanas, she will assess whether or not a dental appliance may be right for them. She may combine this treatment with lifestyle and dietary changes if your child is overweight. For children who have overly enlarged tonsils and adenoids, she may refer your child to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist whom she recommends. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with Dr. Mandanas for your child’s sleep apnea, give us a call!

How Dentists Care for Children with Behavioral Disorders

How Dentists Care for Children with Behavioral Disorders

If your child has a behavioral disorder like oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD), or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you may be wondering what your options are for dental treatment.

In general, children with behavioral disorders are more likely to have poor oral health. According to a recent study, children with behavioral disorders are more likely to have dental anxiety, behavior management problems during dental procedures, and they are more likely to have what the study calls “DMFT” scores, which stands for decayed, missing, and filled teeth.

You may be wondering, “what is the dental field doing to help these children and parents like you?”

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) has published a reference manual on “Behavior Guidance for the Pediatric Dental Patient.” In the manual, they outline best practices for dentists working with children who have behavioral disorders. We are going to talk about a few of these today!

Dental Care for Children with Behavioral Disorders

Children with behavioral disorders may respond appropriately to a dental environment or procedure until they are afraid or they feel like the situation is out of their control.

The goal of your child’s dentist will be to provide the dental care your child needs without causing undue fear or helplessness.

The way that they do this is through behavior guidance.

“Behavior guidance is the process by which practitioners help patients identify appropriate and inappropriate behavior, learn problem-solving strategies, and develop impulse-control, empathy, and self-esteem.”

Behavior Guidance for the Pediatric Dental Patient, AAPD

Many behavior guidance techniques are communication techniques. Here are a few techniques your child’s dentist may try to help them succeed at their appointment:

Ex. 1. Positive Pre-Visit Imagery – Your child’s dentist may show your child images of positive experiences in a dental environment or during a dental procedure while your child is in the waiting room, giving them the opportunity to know what to expect and ask questions while they feel safe.

Ex. 2. Direct Observation – Your child’s dentist may allow your child to watch a video of another young patient receiving a dental procedure or they may be allowed to view a procedure live before their own. This gives your child the opportunity to know what they need to do for their procedure and to ask more questions.

Ex. 3. “Tell-Show-Do” – For each procedure your child’s dentist performs, they may verbally explain to your child what they are about to do, then demonstrate the procedure for your child on a stuffed animal or something else, then finally conduct the procedure. This desensitizes your child to the “scariness” of the procedure and can shape their response.

You may have also heard of techniques like “positive reinforcement” and “distraction.” A well-trained pediatric dentist will enlist any of these communication techniques that they consider necessary for your child to have a positive experience.

If the dentist has tried everything in the book but it has not worked, if your child’s health is in good condition, and if your child’s dental needs are deemed significant enough, they may recommend sedation to conduct the procedure. As a parent, you will be fully educated on the risks and benefits of sedation and your informed consent is required to proceed if the dentist has determined that sedation is best for your child.

The dental field continues to research and learn how to better serve children with behavioral disorders and their families. There are many techniques available that can help your child have a successful visit with the dentist! If you would like to work with a dentist who has experience working with children and enjoys helping families, learn more about Dr. Owen Mandanas. Dr. Mandanas is an integrative dentist who cares about the relationship between the mouth and the mind!