Spring has sprung, and if you are one of the many people out there who suffer from seasonal allergies, it may mean that you will be spending a lot more time breathing through your mouth. Even if allergies don’t affect you, many people breathe predominantly through their mouths when sleeping. Doing so can have an impact on your oral health, making you more susceptible to tooth decay and gingivitis. Mouth breathing can affect your oral health because of what you breathe in, and because your mouth becomes dried out.
Saliva Cleans Your Mouth
Salivary glands in your cheeks, jaw and inside your lips continuously produce saliva, which serves to rinse your teeth and wash away particles of food and bacteria. After you brush and floss, your saliva continues the work of keeping your teeth and gums clean. Saliva also contains trace amounts of minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, copper and magnesium to help strengthen your teeth’s enamel. Breathing through your mouth causes your mouth to dry out because saliva production cannot keep up with the loss of moisture caused by the rush of air in and out of your lungs. When your mouth becomes dry, bacteria trapped between your teeth, under your gums and on your tongue begin to flourish.
Breathing through your nose has the benefit of filtering out some of the particles and contaminants that may be in the air around you. When you breathe through your mouth, there is no filtration, and some of those airborne contaminants can end up on your teeth and gums. Again, without a steady flow of saliva to wash them away, the contaminants can become trapped and stuck to the plaque that forms on your teeth. Using an air purifier and sleeping with a humidifier can help reduce the drying effects and reduce the concentration of contaminants.
Take Extra Care Before Bed
When you suffer from seasonal allergies it can be difficult to prevent yourself from mouth breathing. However, there are some things you can do to reduce the negative effects. The most obvious is to be sure to floss and brush your teeth thoroughly each night before bed. Avoid sugary foods throughout the evening so that there is less likely to be residue for bacteria to feast on even after you brush. Using an antibacterial mouthwash before bed can help to ensure that you start the night off with a clean mouth. Mouthwash also often stimulates the salivary glands for a short time after you use it, so your teeth and gums have a chance to be well-coated in saliva containing bacteria-fighting enzymes as you drift off to sleep.
Prevent Severe Dryness
Take small sips of water throughout the day to moisten your mouth and during the night if you wake up with an extremely dry mouth. This will help wash away bacteria, stimulate more saliva production and prevent canker sores or other mouth infections from developing.
Dry mouth can also be the side effect of a variety of illnesses, medications and treatment procedures. If your dry mouth is persistent and not the result of mouth breathing, consult a qualified health care professional to help determine the cause and a solution. When seasonal allergies or other minor ailments turn you into a mouth breather, follow the tips above and be sure to visit a dental clinic near you for regular checkups and deep cleanings.