“Did you know that an airway restricted by adenoids and tonsils in a child can cause Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), snoring and behavioral problems?” asked a doctor friend of mine recently. He had taken a class on CT scans for dentistry and airway evaluations and as we have a CT scanner in our office, he was curious if we looked at such things. I assured him that we do look at such things and shared with him the stories of two children we had treated who were suffering from restricted airways, behavioral problems, irritability, and snoring.
The first boy is the child of a family friend who was doing poorly in school, had behavioral problems in school and was going to be held back in the third grade because he didn’t seem to care. He kept getting into trouble. He snored and was very restless at night. His mother asked if I knew of any possible cause of his problems. As we had recently purchased our CT scan (7 years ago), I suggested that he may have enlarged adenoids or tonsils that were preventing him from getting enough air when he breathed as a possible cause. I told her I would be happy to take a CT scan to evaluate his airway, which we readily did. While I am not an ear, nose and throat specialist, I have become very skilled at reading and understanding head and neck anatomy viewed on the CT scan that we see each time we evaluate a TMJ patient. We took the scan and sure enough his airway was 90% blocked by enlarged adenoids and tonsils. Fifty years ago it was commonplace to remove tonsils and sometimes adenoids on almost all children who got ear infections. Such is not the case today nor should it be unless there is a clearly visible problem like we see with CT scans when an airway is blocked. I referred the child to an ENT specialist who armed with a copy of the CT scan was happy to remove the tonsils and adenoids to open the child’s airway. Within days of his surgical recovery this young boy became more alert, did not snore at night, was no longer restless at night AND started doing well is school. He did not get held back a grade and he is a very healthy, active teenager today–all because he can breathe.
The second boy is the six year old son of one of my employees. She was concerned because he would push his chin forward most of the time. She would try to get him to stop as it seemed to be a voluntary movement. She did not want him to develop a future orthodontic problem that may result in having to have jaw surgery to correct it. After questioning her about her son’s sleeping habits, irritability, snoring and nature, it seemed apparent to me that he may have an airway problem. Pushing his chin forward was his way of opening his airway so he could breathe similar to what one does in CPR to pull the mandible (lower jaw) forward of a nonresponsive victim to open the airway. The young boy’s CT scan revealed an airway blocked by tonsils and adenoids. Once they were removed, his mom says it changed his life. He sleeps better, is much better natured and is doing very well in school. He no longer pushes his chin forward to get enough air and his jaws are developing normally.
We have to have air to live. If an individual can’t get enough air because of a restricted airway, unfortunate changes occur. Whether its sleep apnea in an adult that can be life threatening or Attention Deficit Disorder in a child that can play havoc on the life of the child and their parents, getting enough oxygen into the system is critical.