If you are a mouth breather, it can have negative impacts on your dental health such as risk of decay and periodontal disease, the pathological inflammation of the gum and bone support surrounding the teeth. Mouth breathing leads to dry mouth and decreases the production of saliva. Saliva is important to regulate your mouth bacteria and neutralize acids.
In 2016, a study showed that individuals who are a mouth breather while they sleep experience higher acidity levels than those who do not.
This study measured ten healthy volunteers who slept with a nose clip to force them to breathe through their mouths. They slept with a device that measured the pH and temperature of their mouth. The volunteers wore this device to sleep for two sets of 48 hours. In addition, they wore the nose clip on two nights and without it for two nights to prevent any natural bias from affecting the study.
Mouth Breathing & Teeth: The Results
PH measures acidity, with pH 7 being neutral, under 7 is acidic, and above 7 is basic. An acidity level of pH 5.5 is the threshold in which tooth enamel begins to break down.
The results showed that a daytime mouth pH was 7.3 and during sleep it was 7.0. The mean pH during sleep with mouth breathing was 6.6. At some points during the night, mouth-breathing individuals had mouth pH levels of 3.6, which is far below the level in which tooth enamel breaks down.
The significance of the results shows that breathing through your mouth is detrimental to your overall oral health, but specifically tooth enamel through acid breakdown.
Question: My dentist has told me that I clench and grind, and I also snore. Is there a connection between the two?
David Wilhite says:
The problem frequently begins in childhood with allergies and enlarged tonsils. This sets off a whole cascade of events.
The allergies and enlarged tonsils result in a constriction of the airway. The constriction causes the child to breathe through the mouth as opposed to the nose. Now, the tongue assumes a lower position in the mouth to assist the mouth breathing. Without the tongue in the roof of the mouth, the upper jaw does not develop properly and stays too narrow and too highly vaulted. Thus, it takes up space for the nasal airway, further compounding the difficulty of nasal breathing. Under normal conditions, breathing through the nose filters and humidifies the air, removing allergens so that they don’t pass into the lungs.
The increased exposure to allergens inflames the tissues of the throat, enlarges the tonsils, and increases the level of inflammation in the body. Thus, the airway is narrowed and causes snoring– which can lead to sleep apnea even in children as young as 2-3 years old. Therefore any child who snores or grinds their teeth needs to be evaluated for sleep apnea.
Many patients with apnea also clench and grind to open their airway so that they can breathe. Unfortunately, clenching does not completely solve the problem of a constricted airway.
A high percentage of the patients with sleep apnea have acid reflux and vice versa. After an apneic event, the first breath is usually a gasp that brings stomach acid up into the throat or mouth.
Sleep apnea also leads to an accumulation of stress hormones, mainly cortisol, and this leads to more clenching and grinding.
A lot of people are not aware that they don’t always need to go to a medical doctor for sleep apnea treatment.
It’s true though; your dentist might have the solution for your sleep apnea and be able to help you get a healthy night of sleep.
This is important because your sleep impacts every part of your daily life, moods, and health. Finding the right solution to your sleep disorder will give you a happier and healthier life. With normal sleep, you’ll begin feeling better immediately.
Live in Plano, TX and want to learn more about sleep apnea treatments? Schedule your consultation: (972) 964-3774
How your dentist can help with sleep apnea
Your dentist can work with your physician to treat snoring and sleep apnea.
If your dentist offers sleep disorder treatments, call and schedule a consultation with your dentist to talk about the causes of sleep apnea and the benefits of treatment. In the Plano, Texas area you can contact Dr. Wilhite for a consultation.
A sleep disorder trained dentist will be able to conduct a clinical evaluation of sleep disorder treatment, including examination of your teeth, jaw, tongue, airway, and if necessary, perform X-rays of your mouth.
Sleep apnea appliance
If it is an appropriate treatment for your sleep disorder, your dentist will be able to fit you for a sleep apnea oral appliance. Your dentist can recommend the type of oral appliance that is right for you.
An oral appliance will look similar to a mouth guard like an athlete wears. It supports the jaw during sleep to help maintain an open upper airway during sleep. For many patients, this has proven to be an effective treatment for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.
Your oral appliance for sleep apnea therapy will be custom made and fitted to the specifications of your mouth. The dentist will create an impression of your teeth for your appliance to be created.
Many medical insurance plans will cover the cost of an oral appliance for sleep disorders.
Ready to Learn About Sleep Apnea Treatments in Plano, Texas area?
today to set up your sleep apnea consultation. Dr. Wilhite has over 30 years experience testing and diagnosing sleep apnea and TMJ Disorders and is a longtime member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. He will discuss possible treatments to decide which is right for you.
Question: My husband snores. What can be done for him?
David Wilhite says:
One of the most underdiagnosed health problems in America is sleep apnea, and it is increasing in frequency and severity due to the increasing obesity of the population.
Apnea can result in many problems such as obesity, heart attack and stroke, fibromyalgia, grinding of teeth, acid reflux, headaches, migraines, high blood pressure, throat problems and low testosterone.
Most of these problems are associated with inflammation and/or stress hormones.
The symptoms that the patient notices are snoring, sleepiness, heartburn, headaches, migraines, and lack of dreams.
Many children have sleep problems that can produce behavior problems and ADHD.
Dentists are in a unique position to notice the signs of sleep problems because we are always looking in the mouth.
Some of the signs are bony overgrowths of the jaws, evidence of clenching and grinding, a scalloped tongue, a red and irritated throat, and a high vaulted palate, to name a few.
The next step is to get a sleep test to determine the severity of the sleep disorder.
If the medically diagnosed disorder is severe sleep apnea, then the CPAP is the gold standard for treatment. However, if the apnea is either mild or moderate or if the patient is CPAP intolerant then a dental device, sometimes called a snore guard, may be used very successfully.
The typical patient with sleep-disordered breathing is an overweight male over 50 years old, but young, fit females can also have sleep problems. The young females can have what is known as Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS). They typically present with complaints of headaches, migraines, and TMJ symptoms caused by clenching and grinding. A number of them will have fibromyalgia caused by heightened levels of inflammation.