Does your child get the right amount of sleep, but always seems tired during the day? Do you battle to get your little one out of bed in the morning? Do you even sometimes hear problems with their breathing as they sleep? It could be that your son or daughter is one of the 10% of children that suffers from Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
What is OSA?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA for short, is a condition that arises during sleep where the upper airway closes off (sometimes hundreds of times a night!) and breathing temporarily stops. This results in oxygen deficiency and highly sporadic sleep patterns as the sufferer repeatedly wakes and falls back to sleep in response to their OSA. Chronic tiredness, falling asleep during the day, and an inability to function well during the day are all key indicators of the problem. Furthermore, it is not an isolated or unusual problem in our society. In fact, OSA is now recognized as the most chronic disorder of all industrialized countries, even though it is estimated that 85% of all cases go undiagnosed
The Dangers of OSA
Having OSA means that you literally cannot get airflow to your lungs. Between the oxygen deficiency and sleeplessness that this causes, OSA can result in high blood pressure and obesity in adults, and increases the likelihood of even more serious, lethal issues, like diabetes, strokes, and heart attacks. Having OSA may cause you to gasp in your sleep, to wake up, or to suffer in silence.
Thankfully, while OSA is not necessarily as life-threatening for children, it can have profound effects on their physical and mental development and general well-being. The profound lack of meaningful sleep that OSA creates can have an impact on weight management and lead to childhood obesity, as well as impaired intellectual functioning and emotional development. As we all know, a rested child is a happy, healthy child.
The Orthodontics/OSA Connection
In the last few years, OSA has moved to the forefront of medical research and thought due to its link to many of these problematic health issues. Doctors and medical researchers know that medication and/or lifestyle changes may help with childhood obesity or lower the probability of a heart attack, but if the underlying cause of OSA is not addressed, these issues will generally continue to be a problem.
The good news is that orthodontics can play a huge role in relieving OSA and OSA-related symptoms!
Orthodontists are the only medical experts specialized in understanding the structure of the oral cavity and as such, are poised to be the frontline of defense against OSA. Your orthodontist shouldn’t just be interested in creating a beautiful smile, and neither should you! Your orthodontist should take a vested interest in the health of the entire person, and how your smile, teeth, jaw, and facial structure might contribute to your overall health, especially in regards to disorders of OSA. Orthodontists have the potential to work hand in hand with sleep specialists to address the problem, but can also independently provide orthodontic treatments that will work to immediately rid you or your child of OSA symptoms.
The OBC Advantage
Here at OBC we take our patients’ overall health very seriously. Because of this, we don’t just simply correct bites or straighten teeth. We take the time to think about the structural changes to a child’s jaw or facial structure that specific orthodontics may create before any work is begun in order to stop OSA sometimes before it can even begin. We also regularly monitor our patients’ progress with an eye for how their orthodontic work may be impacting the airway, and adjust their treatment accordingly.
When we see new patients that had orthodontic work done elsewhere or long ago, we take the time to assess their current structural state and address any issues that may contribute to OSA.
If you or your child exhibits any of the signs of OSA, please come in and let us take a look. Call our office at 703-263-0575.