What A Dentist Wants You To Know Before You Try Mouth Taping
High-quality sleep is essential for well-being and optimal health. However, many people unknowingly breathe through their mouths during sleep, which can lead to various health issues.
In recent years, the practice of mouth taping has arisen as a potential solution. People are taping their mouths shut before bed in the hopes of encouraging nasal breathing and improving sleep quality. But does this trend work—and is it even safe?
Here's my perspective as a functional dentist with nearly two decades of experience treating sleep-disordered breathing.
Why try mouth taping?
Breathing through the nose is the body's natural and preferred way of obtaining oxygen. Nasal breathing filters, warms, and humidifies air, while also promoting optimal oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange in the lungs. Unfortunately, mouth breathing bypasses these beneficial functions and can lead to a range of health issues.
When people breathe through their mouths while sleeping, they may experience dry mouth, increased snoring, and a higher likelihood of developing sleep apnea1. Moreover, mouth breathing is associated with a higher risk of gum disease,2 bad breath, throat and respiratory infections3, and poor sleep quality.
Common causes of mouth breathing include the following:
- Nasal congestion due to allergies, sinus infections, or a deviated septum
- Enlarged adenoids or tonsils
- Structural abnormalities in the nasal passage, such as a deviated septum or narrow airway
- Chronic respiratory conditions, like obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma
- Anxiety or stress
- Dental and orthodontic issues, such as misaligned teeth or jaw issues
- Sleep-related issues, including sleep apnea
Some believe mouth taping is an effective solution to reduce mouth breathing during sleep.
What are the risks of mouth taping?
Mouth taping may help some people, but anyone interested in trying it should consider the potential risks and limitations.
The primary concern with mouth taping is the potential for airway obstruction. If someone has a narrow airway to begin, isn't breathing through their nose effectively, or is experiencing nasal congestion, they may find it difficult to breathe and oxygenate adequately through the nose, leading to lowered oxygen saturation during sleep.
The primary concern with mouth taping is the potential for airway obstruction.
Certain people should exercise caution or avoid mouth taping altogether unless under the guidance of a healthcare professional. This includes people with chronic respiratory issues, severe nasal congestion, or any other condition that may impede nasal breathing.
Mouth taping may also not be suitable for people who struggle with anxiety, claustrophobia, or sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. In these cases, consulting a healthcare professional is highly recommended before attempting mouth taping.
How to prepare for mouth taping
Before trying mouth taping, I recommend people get into the habit of nasal breathing during waking hours using the following steps:
- Practice conscious breathing: Throughout the day, make a conscious effort to breathe through your nose, even during physical activities. This will help train your body to rely on nasal breathing.
- Clear your nasal passages: Address any nasal congestion or allergies that may hinder proper nasal breathing. Consider using solutions such as a netipot to flush out allergens and clear the nasal passages. Consult with a healthcare professional to identify the underlying cause of nasal congestion and explore potential treatments.
- Optimize your sleep environment: Create a sleep-friendly environment that encourages nasal breathing. Keep your bedroom cool, well-ventilated, and free of allergens. Consider using a humidifier to maintain good air moisture levels.
- Gradually transition to mouth taping: Once you're ready to try mouth taping, start by using a small piece of hypoallergenic tape to gently secure your lips while you sleep. But don’t put the tape fully across your mouth. Instead, put a square of tape vertically over your lips. Begin with short durations and gradually increase the time as you become accustomed to nasal breathing during sleep.
Mouth taping can encourage nasal breathing and improve sleep quality in some cases. However, mouth taping may not be suitable for everyone, and you should always consult a healthcare professional before trying it—particularly if you have pre-existing respiratory conditions or sleep disorders.
Dr. Meghna Dassani is passionate about helping adult and pediatric patients with sleep-disordered breathing get the treatment they need to live healthier, happier lives. Throughout her career, she has gained invaluable insight into what it takes to implement those services into the practice and currently shares her knowledge and experience in her role as a speaker. She is an international speaker that strives to leave audiences with the knowledge and skills necessary to deliver sleep apnea treatments.
Before attending the Goldman School of Dental Medicine at Boston University, Dr. Dassani operated a successful dental practice in Mumbai. For the past 18 years, she has been practicing in Houston, Texas where she continues to share and enhance her knowledge of obstructive sleep apnea treatments.