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Your Teeth While You Sleep

Man sleeping in bed.

Find yourself awaking with a dry, scratchy throat? You may be a nighttime mouth breather.

We spend about a third of our lives sleeping. While we rest, our body is in full repair mode, healing, cleaning house and preparing us for the next day.

However, nighttime is also when many of us experience dry mouth. When we wake, our mouth and throat feel dry and parched.

Dry mouth is common, especially in those over the age of 65. As we age, saliva production tends to decline as much as 40 percent. The result is more than uncomfortable, annoying and frustrating. Dry mouth can profoundly affect our oral health and well-being.

We need saliva to neutralise acids produced by bacteria that cause tooth decay. Saliva provides the first round of enzymes needed to digest our food. Bottom line? Dry mouth isn’t just a nuisance. It can affect our entire body.

There are two key issues at play here.

A Condition Called Xerostomia

The first is a medical condition known as xerostomia. This is when we lack sufficient saliva. Saliva makes chewing, tasting and swallowing our food difficult. Even talking can become challenging. Anyone who has gotten a dry mouth when public speaking can attest to the difficulty that comes with a dry mouth!

Dry mouth can occur when our salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva. Sometimes this means our body is dehydrated and lacks the fluid necessary to produce saliva. If this is the case, staying properly hydrated can help.

If you use a mouthwash before going to bed, avoid using one containing alcohol. Alcohol-based mouthwashes tend to have a drying effect on mouth tissues.

Dry mouth can be a side effect of certain medications, the result of radiation therapy, smoking and even diseases such as diabetes or Parkinson’s.

The Result of Mouth Breathing

Waking up with a dry, sore throat is often the result of breathing through our mouth rather than our nose. While we sleep it’s not uncommon for our mouth to drop open, permitting us to breathe through our mouth.

Mouth breathing can be due to nasal congestion, illness or certain structural abnormalities. If your nose is blocked, your body automatically resorts to the only other pathway that can provide oxygen — your mouth.

Mouth breathing can result from enlarged adenoids or tonsils or a deviated septum.
For those with sleep apnea it can become a habit to sleep with their mouth open. Besides an increase in periodontal disease and bad breath, mouth breathing can result in poor blood oxygenation and is linked to high blood pressure and heart failure.

Try These Dry Mouth Hacks

If you’re a mouth breather when you sleep, here are two ideas worth trying.

Nasal Strips – These adhesive strips are placed on your nose. Nasal strips are made of flexible, spring-like bands that stick your nose right above the flare of the nostrils. They slightly open up the air pathways, making it easier to breathe.

Mouth Taping – A better night’s sleep (and its health benefits) may be as simple as purchasing a roll of surgical tape from the pharmacy. Place a piece over your lips prior to retiring for the night. Fold back a small flap on one or both sides to facilitate removal in an emergency.

If you suffer from dry mouth get a professional opinion and resolve this often overlooked health issue. Not only does it affect your teeth and gums, it can interfere with the quality of your sleep and your overall health and well-being.