Last year an 8-year-old patient, we’ll call her Lilly, came to see me with her older sister who was finishing up braces. Lilly’s mom was telling me that Lilly snores and suffers from sleep apnea, and was about to undergo her second tonsil and adenoid removal surgery in 3 years. Mom and I discussed the role maxillary expansion plays in helping children with constricted upper airways. (click here to learn more about expanders!) We consulted with Lilly’s ENT, and he agreed to delay surgery until maxillary expansion could be completed.
Just three weeks after the expander was placed, Lilly’s symptoms disappeared. Lilly, Mom, the ENT, and I were all thrilled and her surgery was canceled. It’s been almost a year and her symptoms have not returned.
I share this story because it is a common experience that a lot of orthodontists are having. Orthodontics plays an important role in the field of sleep medicine for children and adults.
Airway-friendly orthodontics has changed the way I practice. No longer are we looking solely at if there is room to align the permanent teeth and correct the bite, but we are now looking at how orthodontics can benefit children medically and behaviorally. The result is a happier and healthier patient.
Next week we’ll start to discuss sleep-disordered breathing in the adult and why it is a concern.