What is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a pediatric medical condition, characterized by some form of upper airway obstruction while one sleeps. This can cause gas exchange abnormalities that can greatly impact sleep quality and quantity. This disease is prevalent in about 1-5% of children, and can differ greatly between children and adults. OSA impacts about 25 million people in the US.
The key to reducing OSA’s impacts is early diagnosis and treatment, despite diagnosis often being late. It is recommended that healthcare professionals screen their patients regularly for OSA, since undiagnosed OSA can cause cardiovascular complications, failure to thrive, learning problems, and behavioral problems.
OSA is often compared to Central Sleep Apnea, which is less common and develops when the brain fails to send signals to respiratory muscles- more of a neurological condition. OSA symptoms include excessive sleepiness during the day, loud snoring most nights of the week, temporary absence of spontaneous breathing, awakening with dry mouth, mouth breathing, difficulty staying asleep, restlessness, attention problems, and several more.
This is where dentists come in. Pediatric dentists are able to identify patients who may have a greater risk for OSA. After examining tonsils and other respiratory areas, they may also use a questionnaire to further investigate. Such questions may include if your child snores loudly when asleep or if your child complains of headaches in the morning. There is also a test called polysomnography that can be performed, which will confirm the diagnosis or reject it. At this point, your child will have been referred to a medical specialist for OSA.
If your child has been diagnosed with OSA, treatment is crucial to reducing the severity of symptoms they face. There are both non-surgical and surgical routes, including continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), changes in sleep position, and a few others. Untreated OSA can lead to several issues, so it’s incredibly important to recognize the consequences of OSA and seek help when needed.
We, at Huntington Smiles, are especially invested and vigilant in spotting the signs of issues like Sleep Apnea. We love our kids, and would love for yours to join the family.