The dental hazards of mouth breathing during sleep
Well, it looks like there’s really no rest for the weary!
According to Medical News Today, people who breathe through their mouths during sleep may increase their risk of tooth decay, due to a correlation between open-mouthed sleeping and higher levels of acidity in the mouth.
As we may well know from the days of middle school chemistry, acidity is measured on a scale from 0-14 on the pH scale. A pH of 7 is neutral, meanwhile a pH below 7 is acidic, and a pH above 7 is basic. Therefore, the lower the pH value in relation to another, the more ‘acidic’ something is. Using 7, neutral, as our baseline, let’s look at the implications of the study:
“The results [of the study] showed that on average, daytime mouth pH was 7.3, and during sleep it was 7.0. The mean mouth pH during sleep with mouth breathing was 6.6, “which was statistically significant compared with the normal sleep condition,” note the authors.”
So, a pH of 6.6 versus a pH of 7.0 – a ‘(statistical) significan(ce)’ showing that the mouth is more acidic and therefore more prone to tooth decay, for people who sleep with an open mouth. This is, of course, acknowledging the observation that higher acidity in the mouth is correlated with the breakdown of tooth enamel, which functions to prevent tooth decay.
What’s scarier, is that at certain points of the night, “pH levels inside the mouth dropped to 3.6 in individuals who breathed through their mouths. This is well below the threshold (pH 5.5) for when tooth enamel starts to break down.”
A pH of 3.6 versus a pH of 7.0 – that’s a pretty scary number!
The lesson? Shut that mouth! I’ll say it here so your dentist doesn’t have to 🙂