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Managing sleep apnea for the pediatric dental patient


Have you ever listened to a grandparent, parent, or spouse snoring so loudly you couldn’t sleep? No matter how hard you tried to ignore it, it was all you could focus on.

Then, suddenly, sweet silence! You breathed a sigh of relief because the snoring stopped!

However, the only thing that stopped was this person’s breathing! Then the silence was broken and the “sound show” resumed as this person began frantically filling his or her lungs with air.

The process was repeated over and over throughout the night. How many of us have shared these “snoring” stories in a social setting to collective laughter? These “snoring” episodes are actually part of a disease process called sleep disordered breathing (SDB), and it’s no laughing matter.

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SDB covers a broad spectrum of sleep disorders with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) being the most common. It is significant to note that OSA, cancer, and AIDS are considered the most dangerous and destructive diseases on earth!

In the past, OSA was believed to be directly related to increased body fat; however, more recent studies confirm there are other causative factors.

These include overly relaxed throat and neck muscles due to eating or drinking too closely to bedtime; nasal or pharyngeal/laryngeal blockage; and flabby throat and oral structures (e.g., a large uvula or a floppy soft palate).

Exactly what is sleep apnea (SA)? SA occurs when air flow is completely stopped, and it is diagnosed when there are five apneas (i.e., cessation of breathing during sleep) or 10 apnea-hypopnea (i.e., when airflow is reduced by one-half to two-thirds) episodes per hour of sleep.

Apnea alone is not a problem except when it exceeds 10 seconds in duration. There are three types of sleep apnea: central, obstructive, and mixed.

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