Another day, another hack learned from TikTok. The hack du jour: mouth taping. No, this isn’t a trend where you apply household tape to your mouth. Mouth taping is all about using tape or strips especially designed for use on the skin. Now, this trend isn’t used for anti-aging or as a makeup hack; instead, it’s all about getting a more restful night’s sleep.
With more than 22.9 million views amassed on #mouthtape on TikTok, this is certainly a sleep hack that many find useful. But is it safe? We love a hack as much as the rest of the world, but we love scientifically-backed research, too. To get the ins and outs of mouth taping, we reached out to two experts: orthodontist Marina Gonchar, DMD, and medical advisor Danielle Kelvas, MD. Keep reading to learn more about mouth taping.
What Is Mouth Tape?
Mouth taping is just what you think it is: You use a small piece of tape to keep the lips closed while sleeping. But we’ll let Gonchar break it down further: “Mouth tape is an adhesive strip that is worn over the mouth during sleep to avoid mouth breathing during sleeping hours,” she tells Byrdie.
You may be wondering what the big deal is about mouth breathing, but it can impact your health. For starters, Gonchar says mouth breathing is often responsible for a decrease in salivary production and mouth dryness. Additionally, she explains, “this inevitably leads to changes in the oral microbiome and changes in the bacterial content of the oral cavity. Any imbalance in the bacterial composition of the oral cavity can lead to increased caries formation (think: cavities), increased gingival inflammation (think: gum swelling), and possibly periodontal disease.” Mouth breathing, she notes, also, “eliminates your body’s natural air filtration mechanisms and can lead to increased risk of illnesses associated with viruses and bacteria such as colds and strep throat.”
How Does Mouth Tape Work?
So if you’re a mouth breather, how does mouth tape work while you sleep? Well, it’s pretty simple. “Mouth tape is supposed to encourage airflow through the nose and not the mouth during sleeping hours,” Gonchar explains. “Because mouth breathing is often associated with snoring, bad breath, and worsening of periodontal conditions, using a small piece of tape to keep the lips closed could potentially improve those conditions.
Who Should Avoid Mouth Tape?
Using a little piece of tape to keep your mouth closed a night may seem harmless, but for some, it could cause serious issues. “Mouth taping is a new practice and should not be utilized by patients with diagnosed sleep apnea,” Gonchar emphasizes. “Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can lead to intermittent secession in breathing and can lead to sudden death. Any practice that can aggravate this condition should not be utilized by patients diagnosed with sleep-disordered breathing.” Additionally, Kelvas shares that anyone who snores loudly or has sinus blockages with either polyps or congestion should refrain from using mouth tape.
How to Mouth Tape
When I first heard about mouth tape, I imagined a large piece of tape across my mouth. However, that is not the correct way to use mouth tape, no matter what you see floating around on social media. “[Mouth tape] is usually applied over the mouth prior to going to bed and removed in the morning,” Gonchar explains. “Usually, one or two thin strips of mouth tape are applied vertically over the lips to gently keep them together while sleeping. Mouth tape is not meant to seal the entire oral cavity and is simply meant to encourage the lips to not part during the night.” There are also mouth tape options designed in the shape of the lips.
Alternatives to Mouth Taping
If mouth taping isn’t right for you or you find it uncomfortable, Gonchar suggests shifting how you sleep. “Sleeping on your side decreases the likelihood of mouth breathing,” she shares. If you prefer to sleep on your back she suggests elevating your head and upper back to encourage nose breathing. Additionally, she says, “using a dehumidifier to improve the air quality during sleep can eliminate allergies that inevitably lead to nasal congestion and mouth breathing.” And don’t count out nasal strips: “[They] can also be helpful if you find yourself congested and struggling to take deep breaths through your nose,” Gonchar says.
The Final Takeaway
Mouth tape can be a great tool. However, because mouth breathing can also be an indication of sleep-disordered breathing, before you tape your mouth, we recommend chatting with your doctor.