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Child’s breathing can be misdiagnosed as ADHD

The concern is, a leading medic reports, is that children who breathe through their mouths because of a dental issue could easily misdiagnosed with ADHD. The effect of this is a lifetime of being given powerful drugs unnecessarily. This concern comes from medical author Dr. Ami Barakat, author of Perfecting Smiles, Changing Lives and of the Villanova Dental Studio.

Dr. Barakat has spoken to Digital Journal of the concern: “Mouth breathing is often caused by an obstruction in the nasal airway. More than half of the people diagnosed with ADHD are mouth breathers. That is too significant a statistic to be a coincidence.”

In the U.S., anxiety disorders such as ADHD are the most common mental illness, affecting 40 million adults, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Meanwhile, ADHD is the most prevalent psychiatric disorder in children in Canada, according to the Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada. Conservative estimates suggest that 5 percent of Canadian children are affected, and the number of diagnoses has risen dramatically over the decades along with the number of children being medicated.

ADHD is a mental disorder of the neurodevelopmental type, characterized by problems paying attention, excessive activity, or difficulty controlling behavior which is not appropriate for a person’s age.

Mouth breathing can result in a lack of oxygen saturation in the brain, Barakat explains. Mouth breathers are more likely to have cerebral hypoxia or a reduced supply of oxygen to the brain. Mouth breathing children get a low quality of sleep, which affects their mood, ability to focus, and behavior at school. Barakat indicates that this can easily be confused for ADHD.

Other impacts on children who are mouth breathers include the conditions of snoring, teeth grinding, nightmares and bedwetting, and school related issues. This latter category includes lack of sleep and possible low oxygen to the brain, which can lead to affected students appearing lazy or with having troubling focusing.

Dr. Barakat notes further: “Every diagnosed case of ADHD can’t be eradicated with solving mouth breathing issues.”

He recommends: “The parents of children who are mouth breathers and have been diagnosed with ADHD should get a second opinion from a dentist or orthodontist before accepting the ADHD label that means their children will take powerful drugs such as Ritalin or Adderall for the rest of their lives.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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