Harvard Women's Health Watch

Does breathing through my mouth affect my dental health?

Ask the doctor

Q. I find that I breathe through my mouth at night because my nose seems to stuff up once my head is on the pillow. Does sleeping with my mouth open affect my teeth and gums?

A. Open-mouth breathing can dry out your gums and the tissue lining your mouth, leading to a change in the natural bacteria, which can promote gum disease and tooth decay. Lying flat can cause mucus to accumulate in your nose. Try propping up your head with a firmer pillow—or a couple of pillows. If that doesn't work, you should talk to your doctor about your problem. You may have an allergy or polyps obstructing your nasal passages that can make it difficult to breathe through your nose and may need to see an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist). Meanwhile, be sure to brush and floss your teeth regularly and drink lots of water to moisten your mouth throughout the day.

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