Did you know snoring or speech problems in children may be caused by underlying orthodontic issues? In this post, our BC and Alberta children orthodontists discuss the links between these issues, and how we can help.
Snoring & Speech Problems in Children
If your child is snoring or experiencing speech issues, this may be related to a single or multiple underlying orthodontic issues. Childhood sleep apnea can significantly affect a child's health and cause challenges when it comes to behaviour and staying on task at school. Speech problems can range from slurring or whistling to mispronouncing certain sounds. In this post, we'll explore these issues more in-depth and offer recommendations on when your child should see an orthodontist.
Snoring Problems in Children
Snoring is relatively uncommon in young children (only approximately 1in 10 kids snore), and may or may not indicate a serious issue. While snoring may point to an acute illness such as a cold or allergies, habitual snoring is usually a sign of a sleep disorder or airway issues.
A small percentage of kids who snore are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a medical condition that leads to the airway becoming partially or completely blocked during sleep. Because the disorder can later turn serious or even life-threatening, detection, definitive diagnosis and treatment are key to protecting the health of people with the condition.
Signs and symptoms of childhood sleep apnea can range from lack of energy, difficulty focusing on tasks and behaviour issues to gasping or choking for air while asleep and bedwetting.
Even if the problem isn't OSA, sleep-disordered breathing - which refers to any breathing issues someone may have while asleep and ranges from loud or frequent snoring to OSA - can cause many symptoms.
In people who suffer from sleep-disordered breathing, muscles supporting the tongue and airways relax, resulting in the tongue falling into the throat. This decreases the amount of oxygen that's able to pass through and may lead to a constricted airway, resulting in snoring. This condition also causes breathing to be interrupted during sleep.
As for what causes sleep-disordered breathing, many dental conditions and orthodontic problems including abnormal or insufficient development of the jaw or tongue may be the culprit. Perhaps teeth are crooked, causing the tongue to rest improperly in the jaw, which can lead to sleep apnea.
Speech Problems in Children
While parents probably don't think about the role jaw development plays in their child's speech and overall health a lot, how your kid's teeth erupt and the way their jaw grows can either help their speech or make it difficult to learn how to talk and to express their words.
Speech problems in children can include issues such as whistling, slurring, mispronouncing consonant sounds including 's' or 'z' or lisping may be caused by spacing and positioning of a child's teeth, among other problems. The good news is, depending on the issues we may be able to correct them with orthodontic treatment.
When should my child see an orthodontist?
We recommend children come in for an initial assessment with an orthodontist by age 7. While we may not be able to eliminate speech problems in children with orthodontic treatment exclusively, it can significantly affect trajectory and outcomes if we are able to intervene early, while a child's jaws and teeth are still developing.
How can orthodontic treatment help?
Each orthodontic case we treat is as unique as the person being treated. With early intervention, we take measures to encourage healthy development, better alignment and correct placement of teeth. We can also help young patients develop proper speaking skills.
At myORTHODONTIST, we take a 2-phase approach to orthodontic treatment. Palatal expansion, braces or Invisalign may be used during the early intervention phase of treatment to correct the alignment of teeth or the position of the jaw.
If your child has a snoring or speech problems, we recommend scheduling an initial orthodontic assessment. We look forward to addressing any questions or concerns you may have and guiding you through the process.