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Is Your Child Tired During the Day? Pediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnea Could be to Blame

Snoring is most commonly associated with older adults. But the fact is, children snore too! The American Academy of Family Physicians estimates that anywhere from 3 – 12 percent of children snore. In most cases, the symptoms are mild and many children outgrow the condition. 

Pediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnea (POSA) is different. It is a sleep disorder in which your child’s upper airway narrows or becomes completely blocked during sleep, briefly interrupting their ability to breathe. This can happen several times every night, thus preventing the child from getting a restful night’s sleep.  

Your Children’s Dentist and POSA 

The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine estimates that 1% to 4% of children, approximately 7 to 9 million, experience POSA. It usually shows up between the ages of three and six years. The most common reasons for the obstruction are enlarged tonsils and adenoids. These are glands located at the back and to the sides of the throat. These glands may have grown too large, or your child may have an infection that has caused them to swell. We may notice these abnormalities during a dental checkup, so it’s important to share any related symptoms with us so we can ensure your child gets a proper examination and diagnosis or referral. 

POSA may also be caused by: 

  • The child being overweight 
  • A tumor or growth in the airway 
  • Certain congenital conditions such as Down syndrome or Pierre-Robin syndrome 

Symptoms of POSA 

  • Loud snoring or noisy breathing while sleeping 
  • Disruptions in breathing, usually lasting a few seconds up to a minute 
  • Breathing through the mouth 
  • A nasal voice
  • Restless sleep
  • Daytime fatigue or irritability
  • Hyperactivity during the day
  • Behavioral problems
  • Learning problems
  • Headaches 

Other common pediatric sleep disorders, such as bedwetting, sleep walking, restless leg syndrome and night terrors, can also sometimes be attributed to POSA.  

How POSA is Diagnosed 

The first step towards diagnosis is making an appointment with one of our dentists or your child’s pediatrician. He or she will discuss any observed symptoms and then conduct an examination of your child’s mouth. As we mentioned, if we find any abnormalities, we can make any necessary referrals to a specialist, if needed. 

How is POSA Treated 

If enlarged tonsils or adenoids appears to be the cause, your child may need to have the glands removed at a future date. Other non-surgical treatments include: 

  • Wearing a breathing apparatus at bedtime 
  • Nasal steroids 
  • Weight loss  
  • Oral appliances 
  • Supplemental oxygen 

Pediatric Dental Associates of Alabama is led by top-rated pediatric dentists with locations in Birmingham, Cullman, Medplex-Hoover, Oxford and Pell City. When looking for your child’s dentist, know that we aspire to be the premier provider of pediatric dental services in Alabama. Beautiful smiles are our specialty! 


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