Abstract: Snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) in children are relatively frequent, with
a prevalence of 27% and 5.7%, respectively as reported by different studies.
The clinical consequences of the above are sleeping disturbances, daytime
somnolence and cognitive and behavioural disorders, with consequent poor school
Snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea have serious social implications given their
correlations with adenotonsillar hypertrophy, allergies of the upper airways, obesity
and dentoskeletal anomalies.
The interceptive dental and orthodontic treatment, possibly coupled with the referral
to an otolaryngologist and body weight control, is able to solve the respiratory issue
and related clinical consequences.
OSA has been recently added to the classification of sleeping disorders of the
American Academy of Sleep Medicine (ICSD-3) among the breathing-related sleep
disorders. This classification distinguishes between obstructive sleep apnoea in
adults and children, since OSA in the paediatric population exhibits characteristics
which are specific to growing subjects.
In addition, OSA poses an important risk factor for the overall health and the physical
and mental development of the child.
Breathing-related sleep disorders in children not only represent a possible cause
of craniofacial growth alteration—which is of interest from a dental standpoint—
but they may also affect the general health and development of the child. This is
especially true for the neurocognitive, behavioural and metabolic aspects, to the
extent that obstructive sleep apnoea is nowadays considered a neurobehavioural
syndrome. The correlation between obesity and breathing-related sleep disorders in
the paediatric age has been long-established.
One important cause of OSA is the increased resistance of the upper airway, which
might be due to the presence of narrow hard palate, small and/or retropositioned
mandible, adenotonsillar hypertrophy or a combination of the above.
In obstructive sleep disorders the presence of highly predisposing anatomic features
is associated with a dysregulation of neuromuscular factors. In fact, for both adults
and children there is a comorbidity between OSA and nocturnal bruxisim. Bruxism
is included among the sleep-related movement disorders in the third International
Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD-3). According to the recent literature,
nocturnal bruxism could itself affect the sleeping pattern, with consequences for
the overall health, growth and quality of life of the child.
All of these factors can be identified and treated by the dentist, in collaboration with
the otolaryngologist and the paediatrician. Paediatric dentists have an important
role in the diagnosis of breathing-related sleep disorders through evaluation of the
predisposing skeletal factors, especially in the case of small upper maxillary and
small and/or retropositioned mandible.
The study of distinguished authors of the Bambin Gesù Hospital in Rome, Italy, that
we publish in this issue on the correlation between cephalometric variables and
severity of OSA is a further confirmation of the need of an interdisciplinary approach
to this disorder, which is often diagnosed by the paediatric dentist.