Childhood Sleep Apnea is usually described as a restriction of air movement and volume while a child is breathing.
Rapid Maxillary Expansion appliances were first described in the 1880s and consisted of a simple non-removable orthodontic appliance that young children would wear and could be adjusted by their parents.
The orthodontic expansion appliances are used as a device to widen the upper arch, creating space for teeth to erupt and allowing the tongue to have more room.
The Studies Say…
In recent years the medical profession has recognized the use of such expansion appliances as a potential treatment for sleep apnea in children, based on different breathing disorders.
Dr. Zheng Xu from the University of Texas Health Science Center has completed a review of current literature and studies on the use of Rapid Maxillary Expansion appliances to treat childhood obstructive Sleep Apnea and states: “Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) is a common condition in children and can result in serious neurocognitive, cardiovascular and metabolic complications if left undetected and untreated. According to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, depending on the population studied, the prevalence of OSAS is in the range of 1% to 5%. The sequelae of OSAS include excessive daytime sleepiness, poor school performance, learning disability, attention deficit, hyperactivity, behavior problems, cardiovascular abnormalities, and metabolic disorders.”
It has been documented in studies of children with signs of sleep apnea, that coupled with medical treatments – such as the adenotonsillectomy, the use of orthodontic procedures or expansion appliances has helped alleviate the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea in most children.
The American Sleep Apnea Association also states that “Oral appliances for treatment of pediatric OSA are helpful in some cases, especially in adolescents whose facial bone growth is largely complete. One device that rapidly expands the transversal diameter of the hard palate over a six-month to one-year period has been used successfully in children as young as 6”.
More research and studies are being conducted regularly to provide the most concurrent and advanced knowledge of orthodontic practices being used to aid in childhood sleep apnea cases.
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