According to new research presented at the 19th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, an estimated 18% of pediatric patients in a University of North Carolina-based study were at risk for sleep-related breathing disorders (SRBD). Importantly, pediatric risk was not associated with any demographic or craniofacial characteristics, as it is in adults, making it difficult to detect.

The study included 100 children between 7 and 17 years of age, of which 43% were male and 57% were female. The group was 73% Caucasian, 10% Hispanic, 9% African American, 5% Asian, and 2% American Indian.

Researchers used a previously validated survey, the Pediatric Sleep Questionnaire (PSQ), to estimate the risk of SRBD. Each patient’s parent or guardian completed the PSQ for their child. A score of 0.33 suggested risk for SRBD. Results indicated that 18% of the participants were at risk for sleep-disordered breathing.

Orthodontic records including information on craniofacial characteristics were obtained for each patient. The researchers looked for an association between risk for SRBD and craniofacial features. They also examined the effect of gender, race, age, and body mass index on SRBD risk. No significant associations were found for either demographic or craniofacial characteristics.

"We were surprised that our findings suggested that the risk for pediatric sleep disordered breathing was as high as it was, since our review of the literature suggested that the prevalence of pediatric obstructive sleep apnea was one to three percent. We speculate that either our sample size was too small, or that additional factors contribute to the condition in children," said principal investigator Kristen Fritz.