Mouth Breathing: Why This Is A Dangerous Sleeping Habit


Do you breathe through your mouth when you sleep? Do you wake up with a dry mouth? Researchers at a university in New Zealand have found that you may increase your risk of tooth decay if you breathe through your mouth when sleeping.


Acidity eats away at the tooth’s enamel and the acid produced by bacteria breaking down food in your mouth leads to tooth decay and cavities. Your saliva (spit) protects your mouth from becoming too acidic, preventing erosion of your enamel. Spit also washes away the food particles and bacteria that produce the harmful acids.


The study found that the acidity levels for people who sleep with their mouths open are much higher than the levels for those who sleep with their mouths closed.


The Numbers

Tooth enamel begins to break down when the pH level (measure of acidity between 0 and 14) falls below 5.5. In the study, those who breathed through their mouths while sleeping had mouth pH levels that dropped to 3.6, far below the level at which tooth enamel begins to break down.


Am I A Mouth Breather?

There are many signs to suggest that you breathe through your mouth when you sleep. Here are 3 common symptoms:

  • Dry mouth and lips
  • You’ve been told you snore
  • Chronic bad breath




What are the causes?

Chronic nasal obstruction (CNO) is the typical cause of mouth-breathing  while sleeping. Whether swelling occurs in your nose or the actual structure of your nose causes the problem, your nose isn’t allowing enough oxygen into your body. So, your body chooses to use a method that gets enough oxygen in: breathing through the mouth.


Other common causes include:

  • Allergies closing the airways in the nose
  • Thumb/finger sucking
  • Enlarged tonsils


Mouth Breathing Effects

Mouth breathing can actually alter a person’s appearance. Children are especially vulnerable to this because they are still growing and their mouths are still developing. Breathing through your mouth while sleeping causes you to change your posture, putting more stress on your spine.


As discussed earlier, a dry mouth means increased risk of tooth decay. A dry mouth can also lead to gingivitis (gum disease). Bacteria in the mouth lead to bad breath, because reduced saliva means that the bacteria are staying in the mouth.


Mouth breathing can be linked to sleep apnea, a condition where you actually stop breathing for moments of time during the night. Greenspoint Dental’s own Dr. Burton is qualified to treat sleep apnea.


Other known symptoms include headaches, sore throats, and poor sleep.


What can I do?

There are many ways to address mouth breathing problems. From nose cones, to chin straps worn at night, to surgery and expansion appliances, there are many ways to treat mouth breathing.


For more information or to schedule a dental appointment, contact Greenspoint Dental in Houston, Texas. We are dedicated to providing you and your loved ones with the best dental care.