Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS • Nutritional Periodontist
November 6, 2017
Quality of sleep is critical for health. One of the components of quality sleep is proper breathing while sleeping. Oxygen is actually a nutrient for your body – a life-critical nutrient. If you were to stop breathing, you would die. If you stopped breathing temporarily for any reason for just a few seconds, it could affect your overall health.   This is called “apnea”.
Sometimes, apnea must be treated by a medical professional. Sometimes, a special customized dental appliance could be made to help keep your airway open or provide proper spacing for your tongue. However, to help you breathe properly, here are several suggestions:
- Place your tongue to the upper front part of the roof of your mouth, just behind your upper front teeth. This helps to keep the position of your lower jaw in correct relationship to your upper jaw, and it also helps keep your airway open.
- Breathe through your nose and not through your mouth. Breathing through your nose is the normal way to breathe. However, at times you may find your nose is “stuffy”. You could use a specialized tape that helps keep your nostrils open. An adhesive strip that is made of a spring-like band tapes to the outside of the bridge of your nose that gently pulls your nostrils wider. One brand is called Breathe Right Strips. They are available in most drug stores and from Amazon.
- Keep your lips closed. Sometimes while you are sleeping, you may begin to open your mouth and breathe through your mouth.
Importance of Nose-Breathing
Nose-breathing is important because it helps in the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide enhances memory and learning, regulates blood pressure, reduces inflammation, improves sleep quality, increases endurance and strength, improves immune function, and supports healthy gum tissues.
The body produces a large percentage of its nitric oxide from breathing through your nose as well as from nitrates in your saliva. If you only breathed through your mouth, you might decrease the overall amount of beneficial nitric oxide that could be available to your body.
Also, mouth-breathing at night could cause you to wake up with a dry mouth. This isn’t comfortable. A dry mouth can …
- reduce the healthy bacteria in your mouth, which can cause gum disease;
- promote cavities because the teeth are not being bathed in saliva, which helps teeth resist cavities through a process called remineralization;
- increase the overall acidity of the mouth, which in turn could increase tooth decay;
- cause bad breath.
So, here is a possible cure for mouth-breathing. It is “mouth-taping”.
With mouth-taping, you would actually tape your mouth shut. An easy way to do this is to use a piece of Micropore Tape manufactured by 3M. You would place the tape across your closed lips from one corner of your mouth to the other. Fold over a small piece of the tape on both ends to make a “tab”. This will make it easier to quickly remove. Using tape will train you to keep your mouth closed while you sleep. You can purchase Micropore Tape in most drug stores and from Amazon.
However, before you try to use mouth-tape when you are ready to go to sleep, I suggest that you try it for about a half-hour a couple of days before you go to sleep. This will help you get used to the feel of the tape. Then, when you are ready, start taping your mouth shut when you go to bed.
Mouth-taping not only forces you to breathe through your nose during sleep; it also could be a diagnostic tool. If you had to take the tape off during the night because you could not breathe through your nose, then you would know you didn’t breathe properly that night. If that were the case, you might need to schedule an appointment with a medical specialist to determine if you have sleep apnea and need medical treatment for your breathing issues.
Get a good night’s sleep – about 7-8 hours. Breathe through your nose and not through your mouth. If simple techniques do not allow you to breathe through your nose at night, then you might have a form of sleep apnea. In that case, you might need to seek treatment from a medical or dental professional who is trained to evaluate your sleep disorder.