Sleep Breathing Problems Can Lead to Misdiagnosis as ADHD

Chronically sleep deprived children often exhibit the same behavior as a children with ADHD. As a result, children and teens can be diagnosed with ADHD or ADD when the real problem stems from a sleep disorder. Get a sleep evaluation and a dental evaluation by a someone trained in sleep apnea and TMJ disorder if your child exhibits the symptoms listed below.

This is what drives me crazy with the dental and medical community in identifying kids with sleep disorders. I see it too often go undiagnosed. This video is 6 minutes long but worth it.

It brings tears to my eyes every time I see it because I have seen children of all ages with signs and symptoms of Sleep Apnea who go undiagnosed or untreated for a variety of reasons. I see them in schools and in my dental practice when I was practicing general dentistry. I don’t have as much interaction with “general” patients now that I’m specialized in TMJ and Sleep Apnea but still trying to get the word out!

It’s a challenge to get the medical and dental professions to spend time looking for the early signs and symptoms in children of this problem. Orthodontics is an important part in early treatment of children who have under-developed facial structures. The academic profession isn’t universally “on board” with the benefits of early orthodontic expansion of “at risk” growth patterns for sleep apnea. Sometimes the “teeth and bite” look fine from a dental perspective but show evidence of a genetic or environmental potential to progress to sleep apnea and TMJ in later years.

Here are some of the common signs and symptoms that your child or teen may have a sleep disorder.

  • Snoring—snoring or noisy breathing during sleep. In children, snoring even one night per week (without a cold or illness) is cause for concern.
  • Periods of not breathing— The duration of these periods is variable and may only be seconds for children. They become longer with age. If they skip a breath that could be apnea.
  • Mouth breathing— the passage to the nose may be completely blocked by enlarged tonsils and adenoids leading to the child only being able to breathe through his mouth.
  • Tooth grinding – If prolonged (weeks).
  • Restlessness during sleep— the frequent arousals lead to restless sleeping or “tossing and turning” throughout the night.
  • Sleeping in odd positions— the child may arch his neck backwards (hyperextend) in order to open the airway or sleep sitting up.
  • Behavior problems or sleepiness— may include irritability, crankiness, frustration, hyperactivity, and difficulty paying attention. Teens often manifest angry or defiant behaviors.
  • School problems— children may do poorly in school, even being labeled as “slow” or “lazy.” Others can have ADD/ADHD-like symptoms; always fidgeting and moving.
  • Bed wetting— also known as nocturnal enuresis, although there are many causes for bedwetting besides sleep apnea.
  • Frequent infections— may include a history of chronic problems with tonsils, adenoids, and/or ear infections.

Some of these symptoms are just part of growing up and sometimes it is “just a phase”. But if your toddler or grade-schooler has a number of these signs or symptoms or they are prolonged, consider having a sleep study done or have your child evaluated by a dentist knowledgeable in sleep disorders and TMD. Physicians often aren’t aware of the early facial growth characteristics, signs and symptoms of early apnea and are hesitant to refer for a sleep evaluation. We are here to help. 303-955-4848

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