Pediatric airway checks can be instrumental for identifying obstructive sleep apnea problems in young children as well as other problems that may later lead to orthodontic complications or jaw surgery in adults, says Cumming, Ga, dentist Shelly Montes, DDS.

“Airways disturbances in children can range from sleep apnea to abnormal craniofacial development, including abnormal bite patterns and teeth grinding, especially during sleep,” says Montes in a release. “Airway checks can help identify these problems as early as possible to prevent complications.”

“Occasionally snoring is not always a sign of a problem with a child,” says Montes. “However in a small percentage of children, snoring is symptomatic of a bigger problem. This is why it’s so important for a child’s airway to be checked. Early diagnosis and treatment will help children sleep better at night and be more alert for school during the day.”

Children with OSA start and stop their breathing during sleep; these starts and stops can seriously impact a child’s quality of sleep, cautions Montes. “Children with obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to have problems at school, are at risk for delayed growth, and are also at risk for heart failure,” she says. “Since children with OSA also have trouble concentrating during the day and can be hyperactive, these symptoms are sometimes confused with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). An airway check is a quick, easy diagnostic assessment that can provide critical insight into the root cause for a child’s behavioral problems.”

A dentist or ENT doctor can perform a pediatric airway check; should additional care be necessary, children are referred to a specialist.

The tonsils and adenoids are also associated with airway disruptions in children; in some cases, tonsil removal may be recommended.

“Our first priority is to get children to sleep with their mouth closed, rather than open,” says Montes. “Sleeping with the mouth closed can reduce the risk for jaw misalignments and other orthodontic problems later in life.”