Find yourself breathing waking up in the middle of the night with a dry mouth, lips, and desperate for a sip of water? You may be breathing through your mouth too much!
Breathing provides our body with the oxygen it needs to survive, and healthy people use both their mouth and nose to breathe all the time. It’s perfectly normal to mouth breathe during strenuous exercise, or when you’re sick and congested. However, mouth breathing all of the time, especially when sleeping, can lead to major problems like dry mouth, snoring, bad breath, and irritated gums.
When it comes to your oral health, mouth breathing can be particularly harmful in that it greatly increases your risk of tooth decay. Your team at South Charlotte Dentistry has a number of ways that you can counteract the effects of mouth breathing, so you can sleep peacefully, knowing your teeth are protected and your smile bright!
Why do we open-mouth breathe at night?
There could be a number of reasons leading to open mouth breathing, most of which have to do with something physically preventing the smooth passage of air into the nose. Some of the most common causes of mouth breathing are:
- Laying down flat on your back. Lying flat can cause mucus to accumulate in your nose, making it difficult to breathe clearly through your nose.
- Nasal polyps or a deviated septum
- The shape of the nose
- Shape and size of jaw
- Enlarged adenoids or tonsils
- Sleep apnea
- Tumors (rare)
- Stress and anxiety
How can you identify if you’re mouth-breathing at night?
- Chronic fatigue
- Dry lips
- Dry mouth
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Crowded teeth
- Swollen tonsils
- Gum infections
- Tooth decay
- Increased number of colds
- Increased number of sinus infections
- Increased number of ear infections
Mouth Breathing & Tooth Decay
Mouth breathing has a major impact on your saliva production. Usually when you breathe through your nose, your sinuses moisten the air you inhale; this doesn’t occur when you breathe through your mouth. This changes the acidity levels in your saliva, throws off the pH balances in your mouth, and ultimately slows saliva production.
Saliva fights plaque and neutralizes acid in the mouth. When saliva production is slowed from mouth breathing, your mouth loses its ability to protect your teeth from plaque and bacteria build-up. This puts you at a significantly higher risk for tooth decay and cavities.
Did you know?
If you breathe through your mouth at night, you could be at a greater risk for gum disease. When you don’t produce enough saliva to wash away harmful bacteria, gingivitis (or infection, of the gums) can occur, which left untreated can lead to gum disease. Gum disease can become detrimental to your overall health, and has been connected to stroke, respiratory illness, heart disease, and can even cause complications with diabetes and pregnancy.
How can you combat mouth breathing?
Since you’re breathing through your mouth at night, there’s not much control you have over the behavior without addressing the root cause. That’s why if you’re experiencing dry mouth at night to talk to your team at South Charlotte Dentistry and to your general physician. Your dentist and doctor will be able to identify and solve for what’s causing you to mouth breathe in the first place. In the meantime, you can do the following to help combat mouth breathing:
- Drinking lots of water throughout the day to ensure your mouth is moist.
- Diligently brushing and flossing your teeth, especially at night before you let any food or cavity-causing bacteria sit in your mouth as you sleep for 8 hours.
- Using fluoride daily. Fluoride is very important when it comes to protecting your teeth, since it strengthens your enamel and also breaks down acid in the mouth. There is typically fluoride found in your drinking water, but we also recommend a fluoride mouthwash be added into your daily routine.
- Sleeping with your head propped up on a firmer pillow or multiple pillows.
- Reducing stress and anxiety with mental healthcare and regular exercise.
- Taking nasal decongestants and antihistamines to treat colds and allergies.
- Using prescription or over the counter steroid nasal sprays.
- Keeping the house and bedroom clean and free of allergens.
Mouth breathing in children
If you notice your child is mouth breathing constantly, talk to your doctor and dentist right away. Mouth breathing in children can cause crooked teeth, facial deformities, and effect proper growth and posture.
Keep up your regular dental care at South Charlotte Dentistry.
As usual, the root of great oral health is regular cleanings and dental care. With routine check-ups at South Charlotte Dentistry, we can diagnose mouth breathing during a routine dental check, especially if you report bad breath, frequent cavities, or are experiencing gum disease. A dentist may also notice swollen tonsils or other conditions, and help refer you to a specialist like an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, throat (ENT)) specialist for further evaluation and treatment.