We’ve previously noted that sleep apnea can cause bad morning breath. So, shouldn’t CPAP cure morning breath related to dry mouth during sleep? We would like to think so, especially since mouth drying overnight is associated with an increased risk of cavities.

However, for some people, treatment with CPAP can actually make morning breath worse. Here’s what to do if you’re one of those unfortunate people.

How CPAP Causes Dry Mouth

man checking his breath after waking up from wearing his CPAP mask

CPAP and dry mouth go hand in hand. CPAP can cause dry mouth because it forces air into your body. When this air travels through your body, it carries with it much of the moisture your body is producing to keep your airways moist. It’s similar to putting a fan so it blows over a wet floor to dry it. The result can sometimes be very serious, even painful dry mouth.

Although the drying happens anyway with CPAP, it can be made worse if your mask leaks, or if you have a nose-only mask and breath out of your mouth.

CPAP and Mouth Breathing

Some people mouth breath during the day and when they do this during the day, it carries over into the night. Mouth breathing will immediately dry out your mouth and if you’re using a CPAP mask, it will blow air directly into your open mouth and dry it out even faster. One of the first ways to remedy this situation is by finding the cause of your mouth breathing. It can be from having a stuffy nose, allergies, or a deviated septum.

If your mouth just automatically opens itself, you might consider using a chin strap to prevent your mouth from falling open. You might also need to see an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist to address any nasal problems you might have. Once you stop breathing through your mouth while you sleep, the prevalence of dry mouth will be less common.

How to Avoid Dry Mouth with CPAP

If you experience dry mouth and very bad morning breath with CPAP, there are some strategies you should try to help keep your mouth moist rather than just giving up on CPAP altogether.

Use CPAP with Humidifier

Most CPAP machines come with humidifiers or can have them added as an option. With Denver’s dry air, most patients who have CPAP probably already use a humidifier.

Make Sure the Pressure is Right

Make sure you have your pressure adjusted properly. Too much pressure can cause unnecessary drying.

Consider Medications

If these strategies fail, there are dry mouth medications that can stimulate your body to produce extra saliva. This can help keep your mouth and airway from getting too dry.

Use Heated Air

If your CPAP uses non-heated air, this can also contribute to a dry mouth. The best solution is using a CPAP that has heated tubing in addition to a CPAP humidifier.

Make Sure Your Mask Fits

It’s always a good idea to make sure your mask is properly fitted. An improperly fitted mask can increase skin irritation, reduce the efficiency of your CPAP, and, of course, increase sleep apnea symptoms. An improper fitting mask can leak which will not only cause dry mouth but also reduce its effectiveness for sleep apnea treatment.

Try a Different Mask

You can also try a different kind of mask. If you have a nose-only mask, you can try a full-face mask, for example.

You can also try techniques that help you keep your mouth closed during sleep. Some CPAP users use a chin strap to keep their mouth closed, while others go so far as to tape their mouth closed at night.

Look at Medications and Certain Conditions

Take a look at what you consume daily. If you’re taking any prescriptions, look to see if dry mouth is a side effect. Dry mouth is also associated with cancer drugs, tobacco or methamphetamine use, nerve damage, and health conditions including HIV/AIDS, Sjogren’s syndrome, stroke, and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Although you can’t just stop taking your prescriptions, you can talk to your doctor about getting an alternative medicine. There’s, unfortunately, not much you can do about living with certain health conditions aside from taking prescriptions to help with dry mouth.

Consider a CPAP Alternative

If you’ve tried everything, it may be time you should consider a different approach to treating your sleep apnea. Oral appliances allow you to treat sleep apnea without blow-drying your insides.

Oral appliances don’t hold your mouth open, despite what you may think. In fact, for them to work, you have to have your mouth closed. By helping you keep your mouth closed during sleep, oral appliances can help eliminate dry mouth and bad breath.

If you would like to learn whether an oral appliance can eliminate dry mouth, bad breath, and other side effects of CPAP, please call (303) 691-0267 for an appointment with a Denver sleep dentist at the Center for TMJ Therapy & Sleep Treatment.