Breathing issues such as snoring and respiratory interruptions during sleep are most often associated with adults. But one recent study indicates that one in 10 children may suffer from breathing problems associated with sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland studied sleep disturbances among 512 children between the ages of 6 and 8. In addition to monitoring sleep disturbances, researchers reviewed children’s weight, craniofacial makeup and dental issues.
The findings of the study, which were published in the European Journal of Pediatrics, indicate that sleep disorders—such as sleep apnea—in children may not be linked with obesity, as it frequently is with adults. Rather, the study suggests that dental malocclusions such as crossbite can play a role in sleep-disordered respiration.
The message parents and physicians should draw from this research, according to the study’s authors, is that if children experience symptoms of sleep apnea or other sleep disorders, they should be examined for craniofacial issues or bite conditions. On the flip side, children with known craniofacial deformities or malocclusion should have the quality of their sleep evaluated.
The findings of the Finnish study echo figures provided by the American Academy of Otolaryngology, which state that breathing issues such as snoring occur in about 10 percent of all kids and that obstructive sleep apnea occurs in about 2 to 4 percent of children. In addition to causing daytime drowsiness, mood changes and difficulty focusing, OSA can contribute to an increased risk for severe health problems including heart disease, stroke and hypertension when not treated.
There are a number of dentists nationwide who specialize in the field of dental sleep medicine, which offers customized treatment for sleep apnea and other sleep disorders. If a child’s sleep disorder is the result of a bite condition, these dentists can also help restore a symmetrical bite through custom-made oral appliances or the use of orthodontics.