Are You a Mouth breather?

By Alejandra Zamora

Morning breath is real. When we awaken after a good night’s sleep, the first thing many of us do is head to the bathroom, grab our toothpaste and brush away the bad breath that developed over the night before we talk to anyone. It’s a perfectly normal occurrence until certain signs worsen over time and begin to affect your daily life. If you wake up with a dry, sticky mouth, cracked lips and an overpowering sour taste in your mouth, it could be a sign you’re suffering from nighttime mouth breathing.

According to Cleveland Clinic, mouth breathing occurs when breathing through the nose is obstructed during sleep, causing the individual to take in air through their mouths rather than their nostrils. Here are some signs you may be breathing through your mouth at night without knowing it:

  • Waking up with a dry mouth, bad breath or chapped lips
  • Finding drool on your pillow
  • Malocclusion, or when your lower and upper teeth no longer align

In its most mild form, mouth breathing can cause dry mouth and bad breath. However, in its most extreme forms, worse disorders can arise, including sleep apnea, gum disease, digestive issues and chronic fatigue, according to Banner Health. In children, chronic breathing through the mouth can even affect facial development, causing them to form receding chins and jaws or behavioral issues. But what, exactly, causes mouth breathing? Since the phenomenon is a result of relying on the mouth for air intake rather than the nose, anything that blocks or affects your nasal passages could be the culprit, including:

  • Nasal congestion, or a stuffy nose, as caused by allergies, the common cold, asthma or something worse like chronic sinusitis.
  • A deviated septum, or when the cartilage and bone that run through the center of your nose leans significantly to one side.
  • Enlarged adenoids, or swollen lumps of tissue above the roof of the mouth that block the nasal airway. (This condition is typically only seen in children.)

Fortunately, people who have this condition are in for some good news. Dr. Beth Hamann, a dental sleep medicine practitioner and faculty member at the UA College of Medicine, assures there are plenty of lifestyle and remedial options to prevent this common occurrence. Here are Dr. Hamman’s top recommendations:

  • Try nasal sprays, cones or strips to keep passages open and clear.
  • Set aside time to practice intentional nasal breathing exercises throughout the day.
  • Avoid stress, allergen triggers, alcohol and smoking.
  • Sleep on your side or with the upper body slightly elevated.
  • Invest in mouth tape or strips to keep your lips sealed while sleeping.

Dr. Hamann also recommends a consultation with an ear, nose and throat expert and/or allergy doctor to help find the root of your mouth-breathing issue. Especially if caught early in children, this condition can easily be alleviated so long as the basic cause is found and the aforementioned remedies are put into practice

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