August 22, 2019

How to Help Your Child Overcome Their Sleep Apnea

If you constantly feel tired, fatigued, and brain fogged then you might not be a stranger to sleep apnea. But did you know that sleep apnea can affect children as well as adults? Yep. Child sleep apnea is a real thing.

If your child constantly snores or even sleepwalks, they may have a sleep disorder. While they might have chronic nasal congestion, be a back sleeper, or have oversized tonsils or adenoids obstructing their airway, sleep apnea can also leave them waking up throughout the night just to breathe again.

Signs of Sleep Apnea in Children

Just in case you’re not familiar with sleep apnea, it’s a dangerous condition where the oxygen supply gets cut off. If your child wakes up gasping for air, feeling like they are choking, waking up feeling short of breath, they might have sleep apnea.

In our last post “What If There Was A Way For Your Child to Avoid Braces“, we listed quite the list of problems that a child with airway issues might experience. And signs to watch out for might surprise you — when you find out that they are linked to airway issues like behavioral issues (A.D.D. or hyperactivity).

Obviously, breathing is pretty important and if their sleep apnea isn’t treated, their growing bodies can seriously suffer. They might have allergies, problems chewing and swallowing, a lowered IQ, problems with their development, and ultimately, stunted growth.

Other signs of sleep apnea include waking up complaining of headaches, sore throat or dry mouth. Your child might feel tired and sluggish during the day. They may also frequently be moody, irritable or depressed.

How to Help Your Child Overcome Their Sleep Disorder

While sleep apnea is increasingly common in children, treating this sleep disorder is essential for their health, growth and function.

A common treatment for sleep apnea is using a CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure machine) which sends pressurized air through a mask to help keep the airways open in the throat while they sleep, and even sleep appliances to keep the airway open.

However, for children who are too young or won’t use a CPAP or a sleep appliance, we have found using growth guidance and myofunctional therapy for those who have mild to moderate sleep apnea can help!

Why Myofunctional Therapy?

This form of physiotherapy uses repetitive exercises to tone and strengthen the muscles in the face, jaw, mouth, and tongue. This helps your child breathe, talk, eat and swallow correctly. If your child has weak oral muscles that aren’t functioning properly and resorts to chronic mouth breathing, myofunctional therapy helps strengthen and re-pattern the facial muscles.

For treating sleep apnea, this therapy also works the muscles lining the mouth and throat. We want to not only strengthen muscles that are weak but also train them to move and rest in the proper position to keep the airway unobstructed.

These orofacial muscles can block the airway if the tissues are underdeveloped or weak or in the wrong position when resting. Myofunctional therapy helps children ages six and up who are struggling with airway issues.

While surgery can remove tonsils and adenoids in affected children, not everyone is a candidate for surgery and surgery sometimes doesn’t alleviate sleep apnea. This is especially true if your child struggles with obesity. Myofunctional therapy is not only non-invasive, inexpensive, and avoids risky side effects that can come with surgery, but your child simply practices the exercises at home with you.

Myofunctional Exercises Using the Tongue and Holding

The therapy sessions aren’t typically more than 30 minutes at our office, and our myofunctional therapist will coach you and your child on how to do some of the exercises at home. Of course, she’ll develop the road map for when your child should do which exercises. The exercises themselves aren’t too time-consuming nor do they require you to purchase a ton of dental gear!

Some of the exercises include:

  • Pushing up the tongue
  • Touching the nose with the tongue
  • Pushing the tongue right
  • Pushing the tongue left
  • Rolling the tongue
  • Clicking the tongue
  • Pushing the tongue against a spoon
  • Holding a spoon with the tongue
  • Holding a button with the tongue

How Myofunctional Therapy Helps

After your child completes the myofunctional therapy sessions your child will get to reap the benefits that come from nasal breathing and proper tongue placement!

  • Naturally straighter teeth (particularly when combined with a growth guidance appliance like RAGGA) help prevent tongue thrusting by maintaining the tongue’s correct position so your child can’t thrust their tongue against their teeth. Which means they can avoid braces!
  • Improved speech by preventing speech problems (like lisping) from developing.
  • Helps children who are too young to use a CPAP machine or oral appliance.
  • Helps lessen snoring, mouth breathing, upper airway collapse or airway obstructions which can disrupt their sleep.
  • Improved breathing, swallowing and chewing patterns while correcting their head and neck posture.

The good news is, our experienced dentist, Dr. James Powell, can help your child diagnosed with myofunctional disorder involving sleep apnea. With our multi-disciplinary treatment options, your child can improve their sleep quality to get the rest that their growing body needs.

To help your child get on the right track, please give our Exceptional Dentistry team a call at (661) 349-7725 or reserve a reservation online.

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