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How Orthodontics Can Treat Sleep Apnea

Nearly 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. Dr. Chad Carver understands how important it is to manage your sleep apnea symptoms. At Stellar Family Orthodontics in Mukilteo and Mill Creek, Washington, Dr. Carver designs special orthodontic treatments to help you breathe easily throughout the night.

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that obstructs your ability to breathe. Those suffering from sleep apnea often stop and start breathing hundreds of times throughout the night. Up to 5% of people with this potentially dangerous condition are children.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common medical condition characterized by the cessation of breathing throughout the night. Those with sleep apnea can stop and start breathing hundreds of times during the night without knowing it.

Are there different types of sleep apnea?

There are three types of sleep apnea that can affect your breathing:

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea in children and adults. It happens when your airways are partially blocked during sleep. This can happen when your throat muscles relax and collapse in your throat.

Central sleep apnea (CSA)

Central sleep apnea is less common than OSA. It occurs when your brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing.

Complex sleep apnea

Complex sleep apnea is quite rare in children. Those with this combined form of sleep apnea have both OSA and CSA.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

What makes sleep apnea difficult to treat is that many people don’t realize they have it. Unless you have a partner or family member who notices your symptoms, it can be difficult to recognize the warning signs of sleep apnea.

If you think that you or your child has a sleep disorder, watch out for these sleep apnea symptoms:

  • Very loud snoring
  • Morning headaches
  • Sore throat in the morning
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue and grogginess
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Daytime hyperactivity
  • Mouth breathing


Another common sign of sleep apnea is repeatedly ceasing to breathe or gasping for air throughout the night. If you suspect your child has OSA, you can typically hear this while monitoring them.

What causes sleep apnea?

There are many risk factors that raise your family’s chances of developing sleep apnea, including:

Being overweight

Children and adults who are overweight are at an increased risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea and snoring in general. Without proper weight management, fat deposits can collect around your neck and obstruct your airflow.

Enlarged tonsils

Enlarged tonsils and adenoids is one of the most common causes of sleep apnea in children. They can lead to a blockage in the throat that blocks your child’s airways.

Genetic disorders

Certain neuromuscular and metabolic disorders can lead to a narrowing of the airways, which causes sleep apnea.

Orthodontic issues

Orthodontic problems, such as a crossbite, narrowed palate, or crowded teeth, can change the position of the jaw and cause the muscles in the back of the throat to collapse.

How is sleep apnea treated?

The first step in treating sleep apnea in children and adults is to find the root cause of the disorder. If your child has enlarged tonsils or adenoids, they may need surgery to remove these blockages and open their airways.

If your child has an orthodontic issue that’s causing a blockage in the back of their throat, Dr. Carver can determine the right treatment to correct this problem after an initial consultation. Jaw alignment issues, such as a narrowed palate or a crossbite, can be corrected through orthodontic therapy.

Dr. Carver may also recommend an orthodontic device that gently pulls the lower jaw forward during sleep.

Braces and Invisalign® clear aligners gradually shift your child’s teeth into the correct position to eliminate blockages and improve nighttime breathing.

To find the right sleep apnea treatment for you or your child, call Stellar Family Orthodontics or book a free consultation online today!

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We have two convenient locations in Mukilteo and Mill Creek, WA.

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