Orthodontists have a big role to play in stopping children snoring

Many more people are now aware of the serious health dangers for both adults and children that are signaled by snoring. It’s not just a matter of sleepless nights and poor rest for your children but also poor behavior and learning difficulties are also likely.

A recent Conference held in New Zealand featured strongly on this subject and the key role that the family orthodontist can play. One of the main topics was the problem of obstructive sleep apnoea, especially in children, and the role of orthodontists in helping to diagnose and treat the problem.

The statistics are similar in Australia and New Zealand to those for the United Kingdom. We are aware that approximately one in 25 men, and one in 50 women, are affected, but that significant numbers of others remain totally undiagnosed and therefore receive no treatment – a dangerous situation.

The main objective was to better educate the medical profession as far as snoring and sleep apnoea is concerned, an area where Australasia, and also the UK, lags far behind the USA and Canada in recognition and advice.

Sleep Apnoea - Children and Sleep Disorders

It is generally believed that about 35 per cent of children who snored more than three times a week have obstructive sleep apnoea, and that weight and environmental factors like allergies could increase the risk.

“If a child is snoring more than three nights a week then parents should be concerned.”

It was stated that if sleep apnoea went untreated, as well as behavioural and learning problems, it could cause other problems in the muscle and skeletal structure of the face.

A speaker from from the leading New Zealand Children’s Hospital said that often parents weren’t too concerned about snoring, but it could be a sign of bigger problems and it was important to have it diagnosed and treated.

“If parents feel that their child is having difficulty breathing while asleep, or are worried they are not getting enough air, then those are worrying signs that the child might have obstructive sleep apnoea. Because the breathing problem leads to sleep disturbance, children often have difficulty concentrating during the day and are more likely to have behaviour problems, temper tantrums and moodiness.”

The belief is that in many cases it is being picked up far too late, and because of that, problems like behavioural issues remain after treatment because they had become so entrenched over time.

It is in this area that the Conference believed that orthodontists have a key role to play.

Children with nasal obstruction, leading to snoring, sleep apnoea and daytime mouth breathing, can develop changes in the shape of the face that results in problems with the alignment of teeth. In some cases parents might not be aware that breathing is an issue and the first profession they might see could be an orthodontist.

Conference said “Orthodontists have an important role in asking about snoring and breathing problems during sleep and referring children to their doctor for tests and treatment where there is concern.”

By John Redfern