O Conselho de Curadores da Associação Americana de Ortodontistas pediu a um painel de especialistas médicos e odontológicos em medicina do sono e medicina dentária do sono que criasse um documento destinado a oferecer orientação aos ortodontistas sobre o papel sugerido da especialidade de ortodontia no tratamento de doenças obstrutivas apnéia do sono. Este White Paper apresenta um resumo das conclusões e recomendações da Força-Tarefa.American Association of Orthodontists
White Paper: Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Orthodontics

I. Introduction

The specialty of orthodontics involves much more than just moving teeth, and the management
of sleep apnea bears witness to this. As such, there is increasing interest in the role of the
orthodontist both in screening for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and as a practitioner who may
be valuable in the multidisciplinary management of OSA in both children and adults. As experts
in the science of facial growth and development, combined with our knowledge of oral devices,
orthodontists are well suited to collaborate with physicians and other allied health providers in
the treatment of OSA.
While OSA can only be definitively diagnosed by a physician, the orthodontist may be called on
to screen for OSA, contribute to the identification of underlying dentofacial components, and
assist the physician in managing the disease. As such, the orthodontist is not able to manage
this care alone, and a cooperative, shared effort between the orthodontist and other medical
professionals is preferred to optimize care of patients with OSA.
A patient with suspected OSA may come to the orthodontist several different ways. A patient
who has been medically diagnosed with OSA may be referred to the orthodontist by a physician
who prescribes an oral appliance and/or suggests orthodontic/orthopedic therapy to assist in
the management of the OSA. At other times, a patient or caregiver may present to the
orthodontist with concerns about breathing during sleep. Additionally, patients may present to
the orthodontist unaware of their obstructive sleep apnea, and orthodontic screening may
unveil the need for further evaluation by a physician.
In November 2017, the Board of Trustees of the American Association of Orthodontists tasked a
panel of medical and dental experts in sleep medicine and dental sleep medicine to create a
document designed to offer guidance to practicing orthodontists on the suggested role of the
specialty of orthodontics in the management of OSA. The panel completed an exhaustive
review of the available literature as well as contributed their own personal expertise gleaned
from managing these patients in both academic centers and within private practice settings. In
considering the literature, it was obvious that there is broad interest in OSA, as evidenced by
the development of guidelines for the consideration and treatment of OSA that spans the world
and involves many different communities. The topic has been covered by physicians, dentists,
and scientists from a variety of organizations including the American Dental Association,
American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, European
Respiratory Society, Australian Dental Association, American Association of Oral and
Maxillofacial Surgeons, American College of Prosthodontists, American Academy of Pediatric
Dentistry, Canadian Dental Sleep Medicine, Canadian Thoracic Society, American Academy of
Pediatrics, and the U.S. Preventative Respiratory Society, among others.
However, the task force could not identify any formal OSA guidance for orthodontists. This was
surprising in that orthodontists have specialized knowledge, skill, and experience that would be
beneficial in the management and care of patients with OSA. In addition, orthodontists
typically have a broad patient population (children, adolescents, and adults), with contact
maintained over a long period of time. Moreover, orthodontists have a long and productive
history of working with others in medicine and dentistry to provide collaborative care for
patients with special needs (e.g., cleft lip and palate, craniofacial syndromes, complex
restorative cases, and orthognathic surgery).
Given that OSA can be a serious, even life-threatening disorder and given the quality of patient
management and care that can be provided by orthodontists, the task force determined that it
was very important to develop specific recommendations that would be useful to an
orthodontist in practice. The following represents a summary of their findings and

II. Adult OSA

Sleep-related breathing disorders (SRBD) is a diagnostic category of disease that encompasses
obstructive phenomena including primary snoring, upper airway resistance syndrome and
obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), along with the related entities of central sleep apnea and sleeprelated hypoventilation. This document focuses on OSA, beginning with this section on the
adult patient (i.e., greater than 18 years of age). Clinical concerns for other forms of SRBD and
additional types of sleep disorders (e.g., insomnia, central disorders of hypersomnolence,
circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders, sleep-related movement disorders, and parasomnias), if
identified, should be referred to a physician for evaluation and treatment; a sleep medicine
physician is preferred.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs as a function of increased collapsibility of the upper airway.
The pharyngeal critical closing pressure (Pcrit) is the pressure at which the upper airway
collapses. This collapsibility is influenced further by impaired neuromuscular tone. Respiratory
effort increases to maintain airflow through a constricted airway, accompanied by relative
increase in serum carbon dioxide (hypercarbia) and decrease in serum oxygen (hypoxemia).
The increased work of breathing causes a cortical arousal from sleep, which in turn raises
sympathetic neural activity leading to increased heart rate and blood pressure and a tendency
for cardiac arrhythmia. With the cortical arousal from sleep comes an increase in airway
patency and resumption of normal airflow, with subsequent return to sleep and recurrence of
sleep-related upper airway collapsibility. This disruption in breathing may occur multiple times
per hour for the entire duration of the patient’s sleep.
The complexity of obstructive sleep apnea is exemplified by its multifactorial etiology. Such
etiologies involve the craniofacial structures, neuromuscular tone, and other related factors.
Collapsibility of the upper airway is influenced further by hormonal fluctuation (e.g., pregnancy
or menopause), obesity, rostral fluid shifts, and genetic predisposition that influences
craniofacial anatomy. OSA severity is heterogeneous among patients with the disorder. This
wide range of presentation leads to variations in management approach and differences in
treatment response.
Estimates of the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea in adults vary in the literature; OSA
commonly is thought to involve 14% of men and 5% of women. Prevalence rates are higher in
certain populations, such as obese patients considered for bariatric surgery and post-stroke
patients. Under-recognition of OSA likely leads to under-diagnosis and a false reduction of the
true prevalence of disease.
Risk Factors
Individuals with certain characteristics appear to be predisposed to OSA. Conditions that may
be risk factors for the development of OSA in adults include obesity, menopause, gender
(male), and increasing age. [Obesity is considered to exist if the BMI is equal to or greater than
30] Genetic influences on craniofacial structure leads to higher OSA prevalence in certain
ethnic groups that have been studied. Some genetic syndromes, particularly those with
associated craniofacial anomalies, also are associated with an increased risk of OSA.
Craniofacial morphologies that may predispose to OSA include retrognathia, long and narrow
faces, dolichocephalic facial type, narrow and deep palate, steep mandibular plane angle,
anterior open bite, midface deficiency, and lower hyoid position. It should be noted, however,
that the strength of the relationship between these craniofacial morphologies and the
development of OSA is not well established.
Patients with obstructive sleep apnea often have a history of snoring, gasping respiration or
choking, and witnessed pauses in breathing (apneas) during sleep. Common clinical symptoms
of untreated obstructive sleep apnea include frequent nocturnal awakenings, non-restorative
sleep, morning headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Patients with OSA often describe
difficulty with attention and concentration, mood disturbance, and difficulty controlling other
medical comorbidities such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and obesity.
Diagnostic confirmation of obstructive sleep apnea is performed by a sleep medicine specialist
using the gold standard of an in-center overnight sleep study (polysomnography or PSG) or outof-center sleep testing (OCST) for appropriately selected patients. Home sleep apnea testing
(HSAT) is a type of OCST. Attended PSG includes at least 7 channels of recording, including
electroencephalography (EEG), monitoring of sleep, airflow through the nose and mouth, pulse
oximetry, respiratory effort, electrocardiography, and leg movement. HSAT includes 4-7
channels. It is important to note that HSAT typically does not include EEG monitoring of sleep.
According to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders1 obstructive sleep apnea can be
diagnosed by either of two sets of criteria. The first set of diagnostic criteria for OSA includes
the presence of at least one of the following: (1) the patient has sleepiness, nonrestorative
sleep, fatigue or insomnia symptoms, (2) the patient wakes with breath holding, gasping or
choking, (3) a bed partner or other observer reports habitual snoring, breathing interruptions,
or both, during the patient’s sleep, (4) the patient has been diagnosed with hypertension, a
mood disorder, cognitive dysfunction, coronary artery disease, stroke, congestive heart failure,
atrial fibrillation, or type 2 diabetes mellitus AND polysomnography or OCST shows 5 or more
predominantly obstructive events (obstructive or mixed apneas, hypopneas, or respiratory
effort related arousals (RERAs) per hour of sleep during a PSG or per hour of monitoring on
Secondly, obstructive sleep apnea can be diagnosed if PSG or OCST shows 15 or more
predominantly obstructive events (obstructive or mixed apneas, hypopneas, or respiratory
effort related arousals (RERAs) per hour of sleep during a PSG or per hour of monitoring on
OCST). Examples of apnea and hypopnea are shown in Appendix 1.
A few different terms are used in the classification of obstructive sleep apnea. The respiratory
disturbance index (RDI) includes the number of apneas, hypopneas, and RERAs per hour of
sleep. The apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) includes the number of apneas and hypopneas per
hour of sleep. Thus, a patient’s RDI may be higher than the AHI. Some publications reference
AHI while others reference RDI, so it is important for clinicians and researchers to understand
the difference between these two measurements. Compared with PSG, OCST often
underestimates the frequency of obstructive events per hour because OCST typically does not
measure total sleep time as determined by EEG. The respiratory event index (REI) can be used
to indicate the frequency of respiratory events based on total recording time (rather than total
sleep time).
Severity of obstructive sleep apnea is classified based on the RDI; categories are mild (RDI ≥5
and <15), moderate (RDI ≥15 and ≤30), and severe (RDI >30). The minimum oxygen saturation
also should be considered when making clinical assessment of the magnitude of obstructive
sleep apnea, although there are no consensus classifications for the severity of oxygen
Untreated OSA can lead to many serious consequences. Excessive daytime sleepiness increases
the risk of motor vehicle accidents and diminishes quality-of-life. Neurocognitive impairment
leads to decreased scholastic and occupational performance. Chronic intermittent hypoxemia
and heightened sympathetic neural activity, endothelial damage and heightened inflammation
are related to metabolic dysfunction and end-organ sequelae. Untreated obstructive sleep
apnea increases risk of insulin resistance, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure,
myocardial infarction, hypertension, stroke, cardiac arrhythmia, and sudden cardiac death.

III. The Role of Orthodontics in Adult OSA

The orthodontist is well positioned to perform an OSA screening assessment and refer at-risk
patients for diagnostic evaluation. Once the diagnosis of OSA is confirmed, physicians (and
advanced practice providers supervised by physicians) may prescribe orthodontic appliances or
procedures in appropriately-selected adult patients as part of OSA management.
Medical and Dental History
Orthodontists should be familiar with the signs and symptoms of OSA in adult patients.
Thorough history-taking is critically important in this regard for this establishes the presence of
pre-existing conditions, a basis for a diagnosis, the need for referral, and a baseline for
evaluating the effects of treatment. Orthodontists also should include assessment of a
patient’s height, weight, and neck size to screen adult patients for OSA.
The following items should be considered when constructing a health history that is sensitive to
A prior diagnosis of Obstructive
Sleep Apnea (OSA)
Excessive daytime sleepiness*
A prior diagnosis of other forms of
Sleep Related Breathing Disorders
Fatigue during the day
Height* Choking or gasping respirations during
Weight* Habitual or loud snoring*
Gender* Observed episodes of pauses in
Age* Abrupt awakening and shortness of
High blood pressure* Awakening with dry mouth or sore throat
Mouth breathing Morning headaches
Menopause Difficulty staying asleep
Alterations in performance Enuresis or unexplained Nocturia
Disordered mood Attention or memory problems
Restlessness during sleep Sweating
Nasal obstruction Bruxism
Type 2 Diabetes Neck Circumference
*Component of the STOP-Bang questionnaire
Screening Tools
In adults, a validated tool for OSA risk assessment is the STOP-Bang questionnaire (Appendix
2-3 which asks yes or no questions based on its acronym: snoring (S), tiredness (T), observed
pauses in breathing (O), high blood pressure (P), BMI higher than 35 kg/m2 (B), age older than
50 years (A), neck circumference of 17 inches or larger in males, or 16 inches or larger in
females (N), and if patient’s gender is male (G). A patient is considered to be at low risk for OSA
if the questionnaire has 2 or less “yes” answers, at intermediate risk if here are 3 to 4 “yes”
answers, and at high risk if there are more than 5 “yes” answers.
The patient also is considered at high risk if there are 2 “yes” answers from the STOP section,
combined with either male gender, high BMI, or large neck size. For AHI ≤5, AHI between 5 and
15, and AHI ≥30, the sensitivities were 84%, 93%, and 100% and the specificities were 56%,
43%, and 37%, respectively. The STOP-Bang Questionnaire has a high sensitivity for identifying
patients with moderate-to-severe OSA. This sensitivity gives the practitioner an excellent tool
for identifying patients who have the condition. This questionnaire can be completed in a few
minutes when incorporated into an orthodontist’s workflow.
Clinical Examination
The clinical examination is an important part of the screening process. In addition to regular
orthodontic screening, the orthodontist can use the Modified Mallampati Classification to
describe the patency of the oral airway (Appendix 3).
4-10 Three steps are followed to determine
the MM Class: Step 1. Patients are asked to take a seated or supine position. Step 2. Patients
are asked to protrude their tongue as far forward as they can without emitting a sound. Step 3.
The examiner observes the relationship between the palate, tongue base and other soft tissue
structures to determine the MM Classification defined as Class Ι: Soft palate, fauces (the arched
opening at the back of the mouth leading to the pharynx), uvula, and tonsillar pillars are visible;
Class ΙΙ: Soft palate, fauces, and uvula are visible; Class ΙΙΙ: Soft palate and base of uvula are
visible; Class ΙV: Soft palate is not visible.
This clinical assessment framework can help orthodontists identify patients who may be at risk
for upper airway obstruction during sleep. It should be noted that the MM Class may vary over
the course of a pregnancy, so the MM Class may need to be reassessed at various times during
pregnancy. The Modified Mallampati Classification is a helpful part of the OSA screening
process; it should not, however, be used in isolation to predict OSA presence or severity.
Many other OSA screening questionnaires have been developed and studied in various
populations, with wide ranging specificities and sensitivities. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale
(Appendix 4)11 asks patients to self-rate their level of sleepiness in eight different sedentary
situations. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale may be used to gauge or track symptomatic
impairment (or response to treatment). However, it is not a screening tool for OSA, as it
detects abnormalities in level of daytime sleepiness regardless of the cause of sleepiness.
Practitioners also may find the Friedman Tongue Classification System(Appendix 5),
12 the
Kushida Index,
13 and the Berlin Questionnaire for Sleep Apnea14 useful.
Orthodontic Radiographs
The use of imaging in the assessment of OSA is often limited in a typical orthodontic setting.
Conventional cephalometric images are dimensionally limited. Thus, airway imaging using a
lateral cephalogram does not portray mediolateral information in the oropharyngeal airway
and may give misleading information as to the volume and minimal cross-sectional area.
Cone Beam Computed Tomographic (CBCT) images have been shown to be useful in diagnostic
and morphometric analysis of the hard and soft tissues in routine orthodontic treatment, but
they have certain limitations regarding the diagnosis of OSA. CBCT provides no information on
neuromuscular tone, susceptibility to collapse, or actual function of the airway. There are
significant positional and functional differences when the patient is asleep versus awake. It is a
snapshot of a specific moment of the breathing cycle. Additionally, there currently is no
minimal cross-sectional area or volume of the airway that has been validated as a minimal
threshold level at which an individual is at higher risk of having OSA. Thus, orthodontic records
may be taken by the orthodontist, but currently no radiographic methods have been reported
to have high enough sensitivity or specificity to serve as a risk assessment tool for OSA.
Three-dimensional imaging of the airway should not be used to diagnose sleep apnea or any
other sleep-related breathing disorders because such imaging currently does not represent a
proper risk assessment technique or screening method. On the other hand, three-dimensional
imaging of the airway, when available, may be used for monitoring or treatment
considerations. If radiographic records are taken as part of orthodontic diagnosis and
treatment planning, the airway and surrounding structure should be analyzed comprehensively.
IV. Diagnosis and Treatment Planning in Adult OSA
Obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep-related breathing disorders can only be definitively
diagnosed by a physician. It is not in the scope of the orthodontist or any other dentist to
definitively diagnose obstructive sleep apnea or any other sleep-related breathing disorder. If
the patient is found to have OSA, the physician will prescribe the appropriate course of action;
the orthodontist should consider working in a collaborative way with the physician, providing
related orthodontic treatment when necessary, as long as it does not interfere with medical
The OSA treatment plan should be based on careful consideration of the patient’s individual
needs and treatment goals. If the treatment plan involves orthodontics, a plan for treatment,
monitoring, and long-term follow up care should be developed by all practitioners involved.
Care should be coordinated via communication between the orthodontist and any other
practitioners participating in the treatment of the patient. It is recommended that treatment
and/or management of obstructive sleep apnea not take place without a referral from a
physician (or provider supervised by a physician).
V. Treatment of OSA in Adults by Physicians and Surgeons
Positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy is the gold standard treatment method for obstructive
sleep apnea in adults. PAP acts as a pneumatic splint that maintains patency of the upper
airway. PAP is delivered through a mask interface as either continuous positive airway pressure
(CPAP), bi-level positive airway pressure (BPAP) or auto-titrating positive airway pressure
(APAP). Of note, CPAP and BPAP devices are available in conventional and auto-titrating
modes. CPAP use can decrease OSA-related cognitive impairment along with improving
objective and subjective measures of sleepiness, particularly in patients with severe OSA (AHI ≥
15 BPAP may be used for patients with OSA who are intolerant to CPAP or those who
have other forms of sleep-related breathing disorders (e.g., sleep-related hypoventilation).
APAP may be considered for patients with OSA patients who do not have contraindications to
APAP use (e.g., congestive heart failure, lung disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease, obesity hypoventilation syndrome, or central sleep apnea).
Studies on PAP non-adherence report wide ranging results. While definitions of non-adherence
vary across studies, a common definition of PAP non-adherence is mean use ≤ 4 hours per
night. Estimates of PAP non-adherence range from 29% to 83%.
16-17 Early adherence to PAP use
predicts longer-term PAP use; a study of 100 patients started on CPAP showed that CPAP use
for at least 4 hours per night 3 days after starting therapy was predictive of CPAP adherence 30
days after treatment initiation.
18 Factors that affect PAP adherence include OSA severity, ability
to tolerate the prescribed pressure setting, mask fit, spousal support, and other psychological
and social influences.19
Other treatment options include positional therapy (avoidance of back-sleeping) and long-term
weight reduction as indicated. Nasal congestion and allergic rhinitis may be managed with
nasal steroids and other oral medications as indicated. For some patients, nasal surgery may be
performed as adjunctive therapy to decrease intranasal resistance and facilitate better
adherence to PAP therapy. For selected patients, multilevel surgery including nasal and/or
palatal surgery with or without mandibular surgery, genioglossus advancement, and hyoid
suspension may be considered. Other soft tissue surgeries might be indicated that involve the
tonsils, adenoids, frena, and tongue. Hypoglossal nerve stimulation addresses the impaired
neuromuscular tone in obstructive sleep apnea and may be considered in certain patients with
VI. Orthodontic Management in Adult OSA
Following diagnosis of OSA by a physician, a patient may be referred to (or back to) an
orthodontist for one or more types of care.
Informed Consent
Prior to initiating care, informed consent appropriate to OSA must be obtained before any
treatment is provided. The proposed treatment plan should be described in detail, and
treatment alternatives also should be discussed. The orthodontist should describe the benefits,
risks, short and long-term side effects, and complications that might arise. The need for
compliance, long-term monitoring, and follow-up care should be discussed. An estimate of the
nightly duration of oral appliance therapy use should be provided, and a realistic estimate of
the probability of success with the treatment protocol should be presented. Given the serious
nature of untreated OSA, it is recommended that the orthodontist carefully document the
informed consent process.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliances (OA), which include both mandibular advancing oral appliances (OAm) and
tongue retaining devices, are usually effective options for OSA management in appropriately
selected patients. OAm are intended to hold the mandible and/or the associated soft tissues
forward, resulting in an increased caliber of the upper airway at the oropharyngeal level. A
substantial body of research supports the use of oral appliances for patients with OSA.
Specifically, OAs may be used for treatment of mild to moderate OSA and for treatment of
patients with severe OSA who are unwilling or unable to use PAP therapy. Published guidelines
(American Academy of Sleep Medicine/American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine) describe
how oral appliances fit into the OSA management paradigm.
Functional appliances and OAm are considered the first line of treatment for patients with OSA
that prefer OA over PAP and for those patients that do not respond to PAP therapy. While
typically well tolerated, it should also be noted that not all patients with OSA will respond to
OAm treatment, with this form of therapy reported to be completely effective in 36% to 70% of
OSA cases.
Many types of oral appliances are used in the treatment of OSA in adults. The appliances vary
based on the coupling design, mode of fabrication and activation, titration capability, degree of
vertical opening, lateral jaw movement, and whether they are custom made or prefabricated.
Proper indications for each design should be considered.
Oral Appliance Titration
Oral appliances initially are delivered with the mandible advanced to a position approximating
2/3 of maximum protrusion. After a period of accommodation, based on subjective feedback
from the patient regarding their OSA symptoms and sleep quality, the amount of protrusion can
be titrated or increased until optimum symptom relief is obtained. Unattended (type 3 or 4)
portable monitors may be employed by the orthodontist to help define the optimal target
position of the mandible. Then typically the physician involved will request a sleep study with
the OAm in place. Should the physician deem the calibrated position to be sub-therapeutic, the
physician and orthodontist should discuss the possibility of further titration or alternative
During treatment for OSA, the patient should be monitored, which may involve subjective
reports as well as objective observations. Reports on usage of the OA may be obtained from
the patient and bedpartner or caregiver. Compliance should be evaluated, and the appliance
should be checked for fit and comfort, the need for titration, and the development of
undesirable side effects. At present, most data on adherence to OA therapy rely on subjective
reports. Use of a thermal sensor23 has been studied in an effort to have objective
measurement of OA adherence, although such measures currently are not part of routine
clinical care.
It has been suggested that monitoring be conducted at least once every 6 months during the
first year and then annually. Routine monitoring should result in regular communications
between the physician and orthodontist. If the patient has worsening of OSA-related
symptoms, and/or changes to overall health, a consultation with the physician is strongly
The Goals of Treatment
The endpoints of treatment include:
§ Reduced or eliminated snoring
§ Resolution of the patient’s initial symptoms of OSA
§ Normalization of the AHI
§ Normalization of oxyhemoglobin saturation
No pretreatment risk factors have been consistently shown to predict success for oral
appliances in reaching treatment goals.
Change in Occlusion
Oral appliances used in sleep apnea treatment move teeth. In the global field of dentistry,
orthodontists generally are considered the experts in the management of malocclusion because
of their education and clinical experience. Improved awareness of both OSA and the
effectiveness of oral appliances has resulted in increased numbers of OSA patients being
treated with oral appliances by non-orthodontists. While successful OSA treatment may be
evident over the short term in many of these patients, non-orthodontic providers may be
unaware of the unwanted effects of OAs can have on their patient’s occlusion over the long
term. Orthodontists can be helpful in providing our medical and dental colleagues valued
oversight, and sometimes treatment, of unexpected and unwanted occlusal changes occurring
with long-term oral appliance wear.
Typical changes include a reduction in overjet and overbite, changes in facial height,
development of anterior crossbites, and posterior openbite. Changes are progressive with
ongoing oral appliance use. In that many patients ultimately will be treated for a protracted
period of their lifetime, appliance-generated malocclusions often become significant over the
long term and may require treatment to reverse the dentoskeletal adaptations that may occur.
Orthodontists may be asked to assess and treat oral appliance-related malocclusions, a
condition that has become a more frequent occurrence in recent years. When considering
treatment of these malocclusions, orthodontists need to be aware that the patient will not be
able to wear their oral appliance during treatment; therefore, the patient may need to use PAP
therapy during the period of orthodontic care. Communication with the physician helps ensure
the patient’s OSA is still being managed appropriately.
Should the patient return to using an oral appliance for OSA following orthodontic treatment,
then the malocclusion may also return. Consequently, such patients often switch to PAP
therapy or can be evaluated for surgical treatment options.
Patients who are unable to tolerate or adhere to PAP and/or oral appliance therapy with an
underlying sagittal skeletal discrepancy may be candidates for maxillomandibular advancement
(MMA) or telegnathic (>10mm) jaw advancement surgery. MMA generally is reserved for
patients with severe OSA who are unable to tolerate PAP therapy, and for those patients who
also have an orthodontic indication for the procedure. The severity of OSA is not the only
determinant of candidacy for MMA; these patients often require detailed evaluation and
counseling before MMA is selected as a treatment option.
Such patients typically should proceed with routine orthodontic diagnosis and treatment
planning, including comprehensive soft tissue facial evaluation to assure optimal pre-surgical
preparation and that the surgery performed will not affect facial esthetics adversely.
Orthodontic care is usually a beneficial adjunct for patients to facilitate obtaining optimal
occlusion while simultaneously reducing the risk of post-operative malocclusion. Patients with
ideal or minimal Class I malocclusion may not require extensive pre-surgical orthodontics in
that the two jaws may have a similar interdigitation following symmetric maxillary and
mandibular advancement. Telegnathic surgery is not recommended for patients who are
already bimaxillary protrusive; such patients should usually be reevaluated by the team to
explore alternative treatment options. One of the concerns of telegnathic surgery in this
situation involves esthetics. As such, each practitioner and patient should decide for
themselves if the benefits of the surgery outweigh the risks involved.
Significantly less data exists for surgically assisted rapid maxillary expansion (SARME), which
aims to correct a maxillary transverse deficiency. In OSA patients with maxillary transverse
deficiency, normalizing the width of the maxilla with SARME and developing a functional and
esthetic occlusion with comprehensive orthodontic treatment afterward has been suggested to
improve PSG parameters.
Possible Treatments on the Horizon
New treatment modalities such as mini-implant (aka, miniscrew or temporary anchorage
device) supported rapid maxillary expansion (MARME) are appearing as possible alternatives
for surgical assisted rapid maxillary expansion. However, to date there is very limited PSG
evidence for its use in the management of OSA patients. Future studies are needed, and with
time mini-implant supported expansion may become a viable adjunctive form of treatment for
OSA management in adult patients.
VII. Pediatric OSA (Under 18 Years of Age)
As with adult OSA, impaired neuromuscular tone underlies upper airway collapsibility in
children. In addition to etiologic factors similar to those in adults, exacerbating factors for
pediatric OSA often include lymphoid hyperplasia and growth-related changes in the size of the
upper airway.
As the upper airway is narrowed or completely occluded, the patient’s effort during breathing
progressively increases. Due to the airflow restriction, there is a relative increase in serum
carbon dioxide (hypercarbia) and decrease in serum oxygen (hypoxemia). The escalating
respiratory effort causes a cortical arousal from sleep, which results in the upper airway
opening so that normal airflow is reestablished. Once the patient falls back asleep, the upper
airway may collapse again with recurrence of the above-noted process. This breathing
sequence may have significant consequences for the child.
Risk Factors
As the obesity epidemic also affects children, obesity is becoming a greater factor for childhood
OSA. However, as untreated OSA may contribute to growth restriction, some children with OSA
paradoxically may be underweight. Thus, it is recommended that a clinical risk assessment for
OSA be performed even in normal weight or underweight children.
In addition, it is thought that certain craniofacial morphologies can increase a child’s risk for
having OSA. For instance, mandibular retrognathia, long and narrow faces, narrow and deep
palate, steep mandibular plane angle, anterior open bite, and midface deficiency may
predispose a child to develop OSA. However, the presence of OSA cannot be determined by
craniofacial morphology alone; these physical findings should be interpreted in the context of
the clinical history.
Genetic syndromes that are associated with craniofacial anomalies can confer an increased risk
of OSA. For example, patients with Pierre Robin sequence24 and syndromic craniosynostosis25
have a high prevalence of OSA. Children with Down syndrome26 also have an increased OSA
prevalence. Orthodontists who care for children with these and other genetic syndromes that
affect craniofacial morphology should pay attention to clinical features that may suggest the
presence of untreated OSA.
Children with OSA may present with snoring, witnessed apneas, and choking or gasping during
sleep. Parents or caregivers may describe that the child sleeps in unusual positions, such as
having the neck hyperextended or with the head hanging off the side of the bed, as well as
appearing very restless with frequent position changes during sleep.
Some children with OSA may present with sleepiness; those who previously had discontinued
daytime napping may resume daily or near-daily naps. In other children, untreated OSA may
manifest as hyperactivity rather than excessive sleepiness. While obesity may be a contributor
to the pathogenesis of OSA in some children, others may present with failure to thrive. As such,
it is recommended that the evaluation for OSA in every child should be part of an orthodontist’s
comprehensive clinical assessment.
Diagnosis of OSA in children is confirmed only by the gold standard PSG. Diagnostic evaluation
of childhood OSA has evolved in recent years. In addition to standard recording channels, all
pediatric PSG is now conducted with carbon dioxide (CO2) monitoring. Measurement with
either end-tidal CO2 (the partial pressure of CO2 present at the end of exhalation) or
transcutaneous CO2 monitoring also is acceptable.
According to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders,1 obstructive sleep apnea can be
diagnosed by either of two sets of diagnostic criteria. The first set of criteria for obstructive
sleep apnea includes the presence of at least one of the following: (1) snoring, (2) labored,
paradoxical, or obstructed breathing during the child’s sleep, or (3) sleepiness, hyperactivity,
behavioral problems, or learning problems AND polysomnography shows one or more
obstructive apneas, mixed apneas, or hypopneas per hour of sleep.
Alternatively, obstructive sleep apnea can be diagnosed if the PSG shows a pattern of
obstructive hypoventilation, which is defined as at least 25% of total sleep time with
hypercapnia (PaCO2 > 50 mm Hg) associated with at least one of the following: (1) snoring, (2)
flattening of the inspiratory nasal pressure waveform, or (3) paradoxical thoracoabdominal
motion. These OSA diagnostic criteria are for children below age 18 years, though adult OSA
diagnostic criteria may be used for children ages 13-18 years per the American Academy of
Sleep Medicine Manual for the Scoring of Sleep and Associated Events.
HSAT is not indicated in patients less than 18 years of age.28-29
Published studies on childhood OSA have included various diagnostic criteria; some studies use
the adult criteria of AHI ≥5/hour. Other studies define childhood OSA as mild (AHI 1-5/hour),
moderate (AHI 5-10/hour) and severe (AHI ≥10/hour). Of note, scoring of obstructive apneas
and hypopneas on PSG differs slightly for children compared with adults. For adults, event
duration is at least 10 seconds whereas for children obstructive event duration is defined as at
least 2 breaths.
Prevalence of childhood OSA is obscured by different diagnostic criteria used in published
studies. Epidemiologic data from 2008 indicate prevalence of parent-reported ‘‘always’’
snoring to be 1.5% to 6%, prevalence of parent-reported apneic events during sleep to be 0.2%
to 4%, and OSA diagnosed by varying criteria to be 1% to 4%. Multiple studies have shown that
during certain phases of growth, childhood OSA remits without any intervention. These data
indicate that prevalence of childhood OSA changes across periods of growth and development.
Specific populations, such as children with certain craniofacial or other genetic syndromes and
those who are obese, have a higher prevalence of OSA compared with the general population.
Consequences of OSA in children include impaired growth and cardiovascular dysfunction. The
impaired neurocognitive function seen in children with untreated OSA can have an effect on
academic performance. Behavioral problems also can result. Persistent snoring and nocturnal
enuresis (bedwetting), which can result from untreated OSA, can be embarrassing for children
in social settings and thus affect interpersonal interactions.
VIII. Pediatric OSA: Skeletal and Soft Tissue Growth
Orthodontists are aware of the impact facial growth has on orthodontic treatment outcome.
Facial growth also influences the size and shape of the upper airway in the pediatric population.
One approach to understanding the interaction of hard and soft tissue growth on upper a

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