Have you ever been awakened by a loud, rumbling sound coming from your child’s bedroom? When you go into the room you wonder, “How does he sleep through all this noise?” This is a scenario that parents of my patients often describe to me. Childhood snoring may be more serious than a mere annoyance that keeps family members awake. It can be a symptom of OSA or Obstructive Sleep Apnea. OSA is a condition where breathing slows or stops for short periods of time during sleep.
OSA can have many causes. The most common causes is enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Other causes are allergies, deviated septum or nasal polyps. Even the shape of the mouth or size of a child’s tongue can be associated with snoring. Children who have oral-muscular weakness, thyroid problems or who are obese are more likely to have OSA.
How can OSA be diagnosed? Your child’s pediatric dentist may be the first healthcare professional to inquire about snoring. The dentist can evaluate a child’s oral anatomy along with tongue position. Snoring may also be accompanied by occasional bruxism (grinding of the teeth). If you child has either of these conditions you must discuss this with the dentist and the physician. After the oral examination the child will be referred to their pediatrician for evaluation of the tonsils and adenoids. This may be followed by a visit to the ENT.
Keep in mind that snoring is not always an indication of obstructive sleep apnea, but it is an important condition to rule out. OSA is a common and often overlooked syndrome of childhood. It affects 1 – 6% of children. OSA can be associated with behavioral problems, difficulty in school as well as other physical conditions.
If you suspect that your child may have OSA please discuss it with their pediatrician or pediatric dentist. There may be a simple solution to a disturbing problem.