We get this question all the time, and the quick answer is no, it’s not okay to sleep with your mouth open. We’re sorry to break it to you but sleeping with your mouth open is actually harmful to your health. It prevents the body’s natural absorption of oxygen to the brain and muscles (The Breathe Institute), leading to a whole host of issues.
Mouth Breathing Causes
Mouth breathing occurs when a person’s nasal passage becomes obstructed. When this happens, the body’s automatic response is to receive oxygen through its second passageway: the mouth. This might happen because of:
- Blocked nasal cavity caused by cold or allergies.
- Deviated septum or an abnormal cartilage divider in the nose.
- Inflamed nasal tissues.
- Sleep apnea.
Read our blog “How Sleep Apnea Affects Your Teeth.”
Mouth Breathing Effects
This behavior disrupts regenerative sleep—which plays an essential role in both your mental and physical wellness. Mouth breathing can also cause you to develop serious health issues as you age, including:
- Sleep Disordered Breathing
- Poor Jaw Alignment
- Oral and Respiratory Infections
- Dry Mouth (i.e., bad breath)
- Sleep Apnea
- Tooth Crowding or Alignment
- Tooth Decay
- Gum Disease
- Gummy Smiles (smiles that highlight too much of the gum line)
- Lowered Immune Function
These effects can impact your sleep, teeth, and overall health! We don’t want that to happen to you. That’s why we work with our patients on specific mouth breathing treatments to eliminate this behavior.
Nose Breathing vs. Mouth Breathing
In addition to providing your body the oxygen it needs to survive, proper breathing (i.e., nose breathing) allows the release of waste and carbon dioxide.
Breathing through the nose produces nitric oxide, which helps the lungs’ ability to absorb oxygen and improve its ability to transport oxygen throughout the entire body. It relaxes vascular smooth muscle cells while allowing blood vessels to dilate. This process also helps your immune system fight off infections.
More advantages of nose breathing include:
- The nose acts as a filter and keeps small particles in the air.
- Nose breathing adds resistance to the air stream, which increases oxygen uptake.
- Noses add moisture to the air preventing dryness in the bronchial tubes and lungs.
- The nose warms up cold air to body temperature before it gets to the lungs.
- Nose breathing leads to regenerative sleep.
Breathing through the mouth is considered poor breathing (The Breathe Institute), as there is no nitric oxide delivered, no air warming, and air humidifying advantages with mouth breathing. In reality, mouth breathing is the body’s survival mechanism that’s triggered when breathing through the nose is impossible.
How to Stop Mouth Breathing While Sleeping
Mouth breathing can increase as we age due to certain behavioral habits we acquire as children (e.g., bottle feeding, early diet of soft foods, etc.) These habits alter our muscle tone and orofacial development. Early detection of mouth breathing in your child is essential.
Dakota Dental can work with you to reestablish proper jaw dimensions and tongue position for healthy nasal breathing. For adult mouth breathers, there are specific measures you can take to avoid this behavior from affecting your sleep patterns and causing serious health issues later in life, including:
- Sleep on your back with your head elevated.
- Keep your home clean and free of allergens.
- Try allergy medicine if recommended by your doctor.
- Use air filters in your heating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
- Practice breathing through your nose during waking hours. (Meditation is an effective way to work on this new skill!)
Because these preventative measures are no guarantee, it’s best to contact a professional specializing in airway-focused dentistry and myofunctional therapy. The right mouth breathing treatment can help you improve airway dimension and tone and resolve improper tongue and muscle habits.
Mouth Breathing Treatment in the Twin Cities
Are you a nighttime mouth breather who is struggling? Or, are you the concerned parent of one? We can help! For more information about our airway-focused dentistry and sleep apnea treatments, contact Dakota Dental.
We offer free mouth breathing treatment consultations to assist you and your child in choosing the best plan to improve your oral health for long-term wellness.