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Does tonsillectomy and adenectomy surgery really help?

Posted on July 28th, 2021

If you practice pediatric sleep dentistry, you’ve probably wondered: does T&A surgery help children have better outcomes, or do we refer too many children to surgery? And how much does the timing matter for outcomes? A new Australian study looked at whether the surgery was helpful and whether sooner was always better.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, conducted a randomized controlled trial (RCT) on a group of children referred for T&A surgery. Some of the children received immediate surgery, and some were required to wait a year. The groups of children were assessed at 12 and 24 months on measures such as academic performance and sleep benchmarks.

At the 12-month mark, the group that received immediate surgery had improved dramatically. The group whose surgery was delayed had not grown out of their problems and received surgery. At the 24-month mark, there was no significant difference between the two groups. The second group caught up to the first group once they had T&A surgery.

As a dentist who practices pediatric sleep dentistry, this study tells me a few important things:

  • One reason T&A remains the first-line treatment for young children who don’t have abnormalities like a tongue tie or a high palate is that it works. There was a substantial improvement in both groups after they received the surgery.
  • On the other hand, waiting a year for surgery didn’t cause lasting damage to the children. This tells me that in a case where we feel a child may not tolerate surgery – perhaps the child is small for their age and we’re worried about anesthesia, perhaps the family can’t immediately schedule surgery or time off from work – needing to wait is not a crisis. We can work with families to meet their children’s needs without frightening them.
  • A dental practice needs to have a good working relationship with a skilled ENT, especially for our smallest patients. These children and their families benefitted from surgery, and we need to be able to connect families with care.

If you’d like to know more about the effects of OSA on children, my book Airway is Life is a good introduction intended for general audiences. If you’d like to learn more about adding pediatric sleep dentistry to your practice, consider attending my Sleep Summit this October in Houston.

Dr. Meghna Dassani has practiced dentistry for over two decades and is passionate about the role dentists play in whole-body health. You can learn more at her website:

Airway Is Life:

The Book Your Family Needs to Read Today


Healthy Sleep Revolution Podcast Cover

Healthy Sleep Revolution Podcast

Snoring? Tired all day? Trouble focusing?
So many think these symptoms are common in kids and adults when tired. Join us as we debunk some of these common myths and put the spotlight on Sleep Apnea. Discover what constitutes healthy sleep and how we can help ourselves and our kids get the best sleep ever.


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