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Stop mouth breathing – say no to snoring and mouth dryness

Dr. Jan Wrede

Last update on 1. September 2020

A dry mouth is unhealthy and annoying. It brings with it unpleasant accompanying effects such as nocturnal mouth dryness, mouth odor or inflammation. Mouth breathing at night can cause snoring. Here you’ll find out why it is recommendable to “hold your tongue” at night and how you do that. You will also get an overview of effective means to stop mouth breathing and so too snoring. Mouth guards prevent you from opening the mouth during sleep. Nasal dilators ensure that you can breathe through the nose free of care.


There are two situations in which the body switches to oral respiration: When nose breathing is impaired and when the body becomes physically stressed. That is the case, for instance, when being demanded physically, such as when doing sports, being worked up or when coming under stress. Then regular nose breathing is, to some extent, not sufficient anymore to transport enough oxygen to the lungs. You start to breathe – in most cases unconsciously – through the open mouth.


Mouth breathing vs. nose breathing

Nose breathing

Nose breathing is the natural, physiological form of breathing. Every day, between 12,000 and 36,000 liters worth of breathing air flow through the nose (depending on body size and degree of effort). This is nearly equivalent to the filling content of an inflatable bouncy castle. Nose breathing prevents – to a greater extent than oral respiration – dust and dirt particles or even germs and pathogens from entering the body. Furthermore, nose breathing always brings the flow of breathing air to body temperature before it reaches the lungs. When the outside air is cold, it is brought to a higher temperature and when it’s hot outside, then the air is cooled down and moistened on its way through the nose.

Better oxygenation

In addition, nose breathing leads to a level of blood oxygen saturation that is up to 15 % higher. Nose breathing therefore allows for greater oxygen supply to the organs. The reason for this is nitrogen monoxide, also referred to as nitric oxide or nitrogen oxide, which is formed in the paranasal sinuses and which is automatically brought to the lungs as you breathe through the nose. Nitric oxide has a range of important tasks; it widens the blood vessels and facilitates the perfusion of pulmonary alveoli, among other things. As a consequence, more oxygen can be absorbed into the blood and transported to the organs. Body regeneration improves. Your sleep will also be of higher quality.


Stop mouth breathing or suffer the consequences

On the other hand, mouth breathing on a permanent basis leads to unpleasant accompanying effects. Most people don’t know that mouth breathing has severe consequences – negative consequences that is! Mouth dryness, in medical jargon called “xerostomia”, which is caused by incessantly having the mouth open, is quite disturbing. It doesn’t stop with “just” the inconvenient consequences. What is more, mouth breathing at night can cause tangible health issues. Mouth breathing at night, causes the thin salivary film that covers the teeth to dry out while you sleep. Yet, this salivary film fulfills an important protective function for the tooth surface. It flushes away bacteria and prevents the spreading of new bacteria on the teeth, which would otherwise lay the foundation for caries.

Mouth breathing at night

Mouth breathing at night results in nocturnal xerostomia and tooth decay in turn, promote the development of inflamed oral mucosal abnormalities, which can be extremely painful.

When the saliva dries out, it also alters the composition of bacteria in the oral cavity, the so-called oral flora. Putrefactive bacteria gain control over your mouth. This is accompanied by unpleasant smells. Regardless of whether you able to stop mouth breathing, you should definitely do something about a dry mouth – For example, by using adhesive tablets intended for addressing xerostomia.

Mouth snoring

Mouth breathing at night eventually increases the risk of snoring. Breathing air on its way through the mouth to the lungs passes an anatomical narrow passage, the oropharyngeal isthmus, also referred to as isthmus of the fauces. If tissue structures, such as excess mucosae, fat deposits or enlarged tonsils further constrict the respective area, it will lead to breathing air turbulences and vibrations – the snoring.

But even then, when no narrowing tissue structures exist, meaning that the size of the oropharyngeal isthmus is within reference range, it can come to mouth snoring. But this is only then the case, however, when the tissue of the palatal arch or the tissue surrounding the uvula for instance, relaxes or the “tonus” of which is no longer sufficient.

Picturing yourself the following can help you understand quite well how mouth snoring works: The loose sail of a ship. When the wind blows against the loose sail, it starts to luff and produce a flapping noise. For oral snoring it signifies: If mouth breathing air (“the wind”) blows against loose tissue (“sail”), it will then start to vibrate and produce the corresponding snoring noise.


Close your mouth and stop mouth breathing! – Aid against oral respiration

What can you do by yourself to prevent stop mouth breathing at night?

Despite clear nasal passages, you still continue to snore through the mouth? If that is the case, we recommend the use of an snoring mouth guard to stop mouth breathing at night. This mouth guard, also called a vestibular plate, in its form resembles a boxer’s gum shield and is fixed to the upper jaw at night. It makes sure that you keep your mouth closed during sleep, consequentially shutting off oral respiration and eliminating mouth snoring effectively as a result of this. A prerequisite for use is, however, that nose breathing functions properly, otherwise nocturnal air supply may be severely restricted here and there. To forestall problems with nose breathing, you can also combine the mouth guard with the use of a nasal dilator for example.


How does a snoring mouth guard work?

As already mentioned, the mouth guard is attached to the upper jaw – similar to dental braces. It is not firmly anchored to the teeth. Two air passages specially integrated in the somnipax mouth guard ensure that the pressure of breathing air in the oral cavity does not become so strong that you spit out the mouth guard „like a projectile with tremendous force“. To be exact, the excess pressure escapes through the openings in a controlled manner, without mouth breathing at night immediately setting in again.


Snoring mouth guards are safe and comfortable.

Should the mouth guard slip out of place during sleep – or if you feel that you don’t get enough air – you can simply remove the device from your mouth. The mouth guard has a very flat, elegant design, which means that it is barely constrictive and is comfortable to wear. At the same time, it is too big to be accidentally swallowed while you sleep.

Good to know: Mouth breathing at night is also a problem in connection with CPAP-therapy

Mouth breathing at night is not only an issue in the case of a simple – meaning non-pathological – form of snoring. Even when snoring is a symptom of a sleep related breathing disorder, mouth breathing can lead to complications when one is being treated with CPAP-therapy. Patients, who use a nasal mask or nasal pillow mask during CPAP-therapy, are often confronted with the problem that their breathing unconsciously switches to mouth breathing at night during sleep. The air inhaled through the nose escapes through the mouth, due to leakage, instead of going directly to the lungs, where it is needed.

This so called „mouth leakage“ can, in extreme cases, make CPAP-therapy ineffective, thus the patients again suffer from breathing interruptions (apnea). A snoring mouth guard can stop mouth breathing and, in this instance, mouth leakage too. It makes sure that your mouth remains closed, such that inspiration air is inhaled and exhaled through the nose in a controlled manner. CPAP-therapy can do its job effectively.

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Dr. Jan Wrede

Medical Doctor, Berlin

Jan Wrede works as a medical doctor in Berlin. He studied medicine at FAU University in Erlangen-Nuremberg and Semmelweis University in Budapest. He had already written numerous scientific articles during his studies, especially on the subject of snoring.

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