To improve oral structure and development in pediatric and adolescent patients, it is vital that dentists and their teams detect sleep disordered breathing early. Unfortunately, though, sleep disordered breathing often goes undetected. That is why it is important to remain up-to-date on education and what to look for.

What we know

When we hear about sleep apnea, we often think about a disorder that is found only in adults. But that is not the case. Children can suffer from sleep apnea too and it often goes undiagnosed far more than in adults. And when it is undiagnosed, it can lead to oral developmental issues. 

There are about 7 to 9 million children who experience obstructive sleep apnea and suffer from sleep disordered breathing. But knowing what to look for to identify these conditions can help dentists and their care teams better treat their pediatric patients. Some indications of pediatric sleep apnea are partial or complete blockage in the upper airway, commonly caused by adenotonsillar hypertrophy, and enlarged tonsils.

Parents and guardians need to be aware

Research also suggests that most cases of sleep apnea among children and adolescents go unnoticed by parents or guardians too. That is why parents and guardians should pay attention to their children’s sleeping patterns. Try checking in on them a few times if you can. 

It also means paying attention to how they act the next day. Are they constantly tired? Do you find that they are extremely irritable and can’t focus in school or other activities? Pay attention to different aspects of your child’s day-to-day to know what is best to do.

As dentists, though, we can help. Complete continuing education to provide advanced information for your patients and their parents.