Un-stuffing Your Stuffy Nose: What You Need To Know So You Can Breathe Better, Sleep Better, & Live Better

Posted on: August 3, 2015

dentistAs a dentist, we are focused on keeping our patients in excellent oral health and part of that process is understanding how the entire body works together.  Oral health, as with the health of any part of your body, is not isolated.  This is why something like gum disease can impact your gums, teeth and even your heart.  Even your breathing is connected to your oral health.

In Sleep Interrupted by Steven Y. Park, M.D there is discussion around the negative side effects of breathing through your mouth.  While it may seem natural to switch between mouth and nose breathing, there are distinct health advantages to breathing through your nose.  The first of these is that you will receive more oxygen.  This is because of a gas called nitric oxide.  When you breathe through your nose, it is created in small quantities and this gas helps your lungs to absorb oxygen.  As a result, you will receive 10 to 25 percent more oxygen and feel more energized.

As a dentist, I frequently work with patients that do not get enough oxygen while they sleep due to obstructive sleep apnea.  This condition is generally caused by the lower jaw and tongue falling backwards and blocking the airway.  This condition can lead people to feel so incredibly fatigued that they cannot stay up past dinner, fall asleep when doing activities like watching television or working on the computer, etc.   I treat this condition using a non-invasive, removable oral appliance.  The results are consistent and dramatic as patients begin to breathe freely at night and wake up feeling refreshed for the first time in months or years.  Through these treatments, I witness firsthand the importance of getting the right amount of oxygen.  This makes the studies on nose breathing even more interesting because if you could change how you are breathing, you could start to feel more energized than you have in years and begin to enjoy life more thoroughly.

Simultaneously, this makes it important to treat any problems that you have with your nose right away.  If you have a sinus infection or too much mucus, it needs to be treated with a visit to your primary care doctor.  Clearing the mucus can help you to breathe through your nose during the day and improve your breathing at night.  While obstructive sleep apnea is typically caused by the tongue blocking the airways, it is exasperated by a plugged up nose. In this case, wearing a removable oral appliance while sleeping becomes even more important.

As a dentist, I can examine you and suggest steps for an at-home sleep study to determine if you have obstructive sleep apnea.  If you do, we will make an impression of your mouth and take measurements.  This information will then be sent to the dental lab for your oral appliance to be created.  It will fit perfectly so that you can sleep without it moving out of place or causing you any discomfort.  This, combined with treating any sinus problems that you have, can help you to get more oxygen while sleeping.  Breathing through your nose during the day will further improve your oxygen levels, making it possible to have the energy you need to enjoy more strenuous activities.


This report is for educational and informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Please talk to your doctor before making any changes to your medical regimen.

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