Sleep Apnea in Babies & Toddlers

Sleep Apnea in Babies & Toddlers
Posted on 01/21/2020
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At Federici Dental, we believe everyone deserves a smile they're proud to show off, which is why we're proud to offer a wide range of dental treatments to patients in the greater Manahawkin, NJ area. But in addition to restorative and cosmetic dental treatments, we also offer comprehensive treatment for sleep apnea. Our dentist, Dr. David E. Federici, is one of only 425 other sleep apnea dentists to reach the level of Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABDSM), making us highly qualified to treat patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Most sufferers of sleep apnea are adults – but it can still be a problem for babies and toddlers. 

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep-related breathing condition (SRBC) in which a person experiences brief, periodic interruptions in the flow of breath during sleep. These individual interruptions are called "apneas," and they can last anywhere from less than a second to up to ten seconds, occurring anywhere from a few times an hour to upwards of 60 times per hour or more. Most sufferers of sleep apnea have Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which is caused by overrelaxation of the throat muscles leading to a closing of the throat, however a small number of patients have Central Sleep Apnea, which occurs when the brain doesn't send proper messages to the muscles to breathe during sleep. 

Can Babies and Kids Get Sleep Apnea? 

Sleep apnea is far and above most common for adults, and in fact, experts estimate that up to 26 percent of adults between ages 30 and 70 suffer from some degree of sleep apnea. But while it's less common, sleep apnea can still affect children. Estimates say that somewhere between 1% and 10% of kids have OSA. Most children have only mild symptoms and outgrow the condition with time, but for others, it's a more serious problem that requires treatment. 

What Are the Risks of Childhood Sleep Apnea?

For kids that do suffer from moderate to severe sleep apnea, the consequences can be dire. Each time that breathing stops during sleep, the brain has to partially wake itself up in order to send signals to the throat to open and restore breathing. Usually, the brain isn't awake enough that people remember these events – but it does wake itself up enough to disrupt sleep. In more severe cases of sleep apnea, this can cause dozens of sleep interruptions per hour, effectively robbing the body of healthy sleep. Sleep is important for all of us, but its absolutely critical for children whose brains and bodies are still forming. Without treatment, children with sleep apnea can suffer problems ranging from mood swings and irritability to developmental difficulties, and in rare cases sleep apnea can prove fatal. 

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea for Kids

So how do you tell if your child is suffering from sleep apnea? The only way to know for sure is to have your child do a sleep study, in which a trained doctor will take physiological measurements while your child sleeps to determine if apneas are occurring. However, most kids with sleep apnea display a number of common symptoms. Here are some of the symptoms of sleep apnea that happen while a child is asleep:

  • Snoring, especially if it's loud and consistent
  • Pauses in breathing, gasps, or snorts
  • Sleeping in abnormal positions, especially with the head in unusual positions
  • Heavy sweating during sleep
  • Difficulty waking up from sleep

Sleep apnea can also produce a number of daytime symptoms, including:

  • Irritability 
  • Headaches, especially in the morning
  • Tiredness or exhaustion
  • Behavioral, academic, or social problems

If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, it may be a sign that they're suffering from sleep apnea. Having your child do a sleep study will determine if sleep apnea is a problem for them, allowing your doctor to understand the condition and determine the best course of action for treatment. 

Treatments for Childhood Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can vary widely in its severity and presentation, so the right treatment for your child can only be determined by you and your sleep apnea dentist. However, there are a number of options available to treat childhood sleep apnea, and Federici Dental can work with you to design the best treatment regimen for your child.

Pediatric sleep apnea treatments include:

  • Medication: For some kids, medication is an effective way to combat OSA, especially if it's mild. Topical nasal steroids can help open the airway, while certain allergy medications can also provide relief. 
  • Positive Airway Pressure Therapy: For more severe cases of sleep apnea, we can uses a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP) machine. These machines gently blow air into your child's mouth as they sleep, helping to keep the airway open and regulate breathing. 
  • Surgery: Sometimes, the best way to treat sleep apnea is by surgically removing the tonsils and adenoids. This can help open up the airway, and thankfully it's a fairly routine, minimally-invasive procedure. 
  • Oral Appliances: For many children, the only thing needed to treat sleep apnea is a specially-designed retainer. Sleep apnea oral appliances reposition the jaws to keep the throat and airway open during sleep, preventing apneas without the need for a full CPAP machine. At our practice, we specialize in alternatives to CPAP for sleep apnea treatment. 

Schedule a Consultation with A Manahawkin Sleep Apnea Pediatric Dentist

While sleep apnea is rare for children, it still can present an issue, and it's important to treat pediatric sleep apnea to ensure that your child gets the healthy, restful sleep they need for normal development. If you think your child may suffer from sleep apnea or just want to learn more about OSA treatment, we'd be happy to help. Contact us today to learn more about our sleep apnea treatment options, or use our easy online form to request a consultation if you'd like to start the treatment process. We look forward to hearing from you, and we're excited to help you and your child achieve the healthy sleep – and the healthy smile – that you deserve!