Millions of people snore. You may snore, and (if you’re unlucky) your partner may snore. Because snoring is so common, people just accept it. No one finds it odd if they or someone they know snores. Sometimes it’s a symptom of sleep apnea but, in a lot of cases, it’s completely harmless — if not a little annoying. Chances are, if you’re snoring, there’s nothing wrong. However, if your child is snoring, you should be concerned.
Snoring in children is a strong sign of a blocked pediatric airway — which is about as dangerous as it sounds. Because children’s mouths and throats aren’t finished developing, their airway can be small and crowded. Everything from allergies to oversized tonsils to misaligned teeth can cause the airway to become blocked — especially at night. As with sleep apnea in adults, a blocked pediatric airway keeps kids from getting a full night’s rest. A lack of sleep in children can cause developmental problems, ADHD-like symptoms, and struggles in school.
Even though it appears that they’re sleeping, because their airway is intermittently being cut off, their brain will not allow them to go into a deep, restful sleep. Our bodies are smart. If they think something is wrong, they’re going to encourage us to stay awake and find a solution. The thing is, with a blocked pediatric airway, there’s nothing a child can do to fix it. It isn’t related to the position they’re sleeping in or how many hours they spend in front of a blue-light computer. Fixing a pediatric airway can be tricky because the origin of the problem can be manifold. To help you get a better idea of what may be causing your child to snore at night, we’ll go over some of the most common reasons.
As simple and silly as it sounds, a dust-covered stuffed animal could be causing your child’s pediatric airway to become blocked. Allergies in children are getting worse and worse but a lot of concerned parents seem to focus solely on addressing food allergies, completely ignoring airborne allergies.
Seasonal allergies and allergies related to dust can cause kids’ noses to become clogged. This forces them to breathe through their mouths. Not only is mouth-breathing uncomfortable, but it’s also detrimental to a developing child’s health. If a child breathes through their mouth for a long time, it can affect how their face, mouth, and throat develop.
This is where the snoring comes in. Long-term mouth breathers begin snoring because their mouths (from their teeth to their palate) are developing in an abnormal way. What’s the best way to keep this from happening? Try some over-the-counter allergy pills that are safe for kids. If your child is still snoring, go to an allergy specialist to see if a prescription-strength antihistamine might work a little better.
Tonsils are (typically) small masses of soft tissue that reside at the back of the throat. At one time, they helped catch harmful germs and bacteria from entering the body. Today, most doctors agree that they’re pretty much useless. In some cases, they’re actually harmful, causing painful infections (tonsilitis). Tonsilitis is especially prevalent in children which is why many kids get their tonsils removed.
The adenoids are very similar to the tonsils but are located a little further back, just behind the nose. These germ-catching patches of soft tissue are harder to see but your doctor should be able to tell if they’re enlarged. Adenoid removal is a little less common than tonsil removal since they’re typically less of a nuisance.
If the tonsils or the adenoids are too big (which happens frequently), they can fall backward while a child is sleeping, covering the airway. To see if this is the root of your child’s blocked pediatric airway, visit an ear, nose, and throat specialist and ask them to take a closer look. They should be able to quickly tell if the tonsils and/or adenoids are at the root of your child’s snoring habit.
Misaligned teeth and/or abnormal palate development
Kids’ mouths look a lot different than adult mouths so sometimes parents don’t know if their kids’ teeth are coming in correctly or not. They may take them to a dentist but, chances are, the dentist won’t mention misaligned teeth or an abnormal palate. They’ll check for cavities but most dentists have no clue what a blocked pediatric airway is. They’ll tell the parents that the child will need braces later on and they’ll leave it at that. Unfortunately, that doesn’t even begin to start to solve the problem.
Dentists don’t learn about the pediatric airway in dental school. They have to go to continuing education classes which isn’t something a lot of dentists look forward to doing. If you suspect your child’s blocked pediatric airway is coming from a crowded mouth or misaligned teeth, mention the term “blocked pediatric airway” to your dentist. If they give you a confused look, it might be time to start searching for a new dentist.
What’s the next step?
A blocked pediatric airway caused by allergies or tonsils is easy to treat. With mouth or palate development, things can get a little trickier. Once again, if your dentist isn’t familiar with the blocked pediatric airway, chances are they’ll recommend that your child get braces in a few years. Parents who have a child who is snoring shouldn’t have to wait a few years to see a change.
That’s why we started offering the revolutionary orthodontic device, HealthyStart, at our office. HealthyStart is the best way to correct misaligned teeth and open up the pediatric airway for kids who are snoring at night. The soft plastic device is custom-made and fits comfortably in the child’s mouth at night. As the child’s mouth continues developing, the HealthyStart device will act as a guide, encouraging normal, healthy growth. By the end of the HealthyStart program, your child will no longer be snoring and will have straight teeth (without braces!)
Interested in hearing more about HealthyStart? Schedule a free consultation with me to talk about your options. We’ll go over HealthyStart and how it could help change your child’s life for the better.