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TikTok videos touting this strange-looking trend have now received almost 25 million views. Here’s what you need to know about its potential benefits and risks.
All across TikTok, influencers are purporting the dangers of mouth breathing. One person attributes bad breath, gum disease, cavities, brain fog and a weakened immune system to the habit. Another claims it causes a weakened jawline, double chin and less prominent cheekbones. Most of all, advocates say mouth breathing interrupts their precious sleep.
So, what’s a beauty- and health-conscious individual to do? Thousands are turning to the viral trend of mouth taping. But does it work—and is it even safe?
What Is Mouth Taping?
Mouth taping is the process of forcing yourself to breathe through your nose while you sleep by taping your mouth shut. Breathing through your nose is known to have several benefits including calming anxiety, lowering blood pressure, filtering allergens and moisturizing your throat. In order to achieve these benefits, the influencers suggest placing specialized over-the-counter mouth tape vertically over the center of the mouth before sleeping each night.
Does Mouth Taping Work?
Scientific research on the practice is slim, with most evidence small-scale and anecdotal. Experts say that at best, it may have minimally positive effects for specific individuals; at worst, it can be dangerous. To better understand its purported effectiveness, let’s examine the claims individually.
This one’s easy: mouth taping will not enhance your looks. According to James Nester, journalist and author of Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, “There is zero evidence that you’ll be more beautiful or will have clearer skin.”
This myth likely emerged as a reaction to the “adenoid faces” that have been scientifically proven to be caused by mouth-breathing. However, this only happens in developing children—not adults.
For Oral Health
Dentists do agree that mouth breathing during sleep can lead to the numerous oral issues cited above, due to the drying of the mouth and throat. However, virtually none of them recommend mouth taping as a solution, for two reasons.
First, it may not actually prevent mouth breathing due to a phenomenon called mouth puffing, or breathing through the sides of your mouth when just the center is taped shut.
Second, it doesn’t address any potential underlying causes, such as blocked nasal passages, swollen tonsils or adenoids or snoring. All of these symptoms could be indications of other issues, like a virus or sleep disorder that needs to be treated directly.
For Deeper Sleep
For most candidates, mouth taping has not been proven to help users get better sleep. However, there is a case to be made for those who have been diagnosed with a pre-existing sleep condition, like obstructive sleep apnea, in which the upper airway is fully or partially blocked, leading to issues falling and staying asleep.
In one small study of 20 patients with mild obstructive sleep apnea who taped their mouths shut, 13 of them snored less with the tape than without. In another study of 30 patients with mild obstructive sleep apnea, the use of a mouth patch again seemed to reduce snoring.
Some doctors, such as Dr. Andrew Wellman at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, say that mouth taping may help improve a person’s airflow, but certainly won’t cure apnea. On the other hand, Dr. Raj Dasgupta, sleep specialist and associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California, says that mouth taping is especially dangerous to those with obstructive sleep apnea.
Is Mouth Taping Safe?
Mouth taping comes with a variety of risks. Here are the absolute no-nos:
- Never place a full strip of tape across your entire mouth.
- Never use hardcore home tape like duct tape.
Both of these could lead to asphyxiation, particularly if you were to vomit in your sleep, according to Dr. Kathryn Boling at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD.
Additionally, wearing mouth tape could lead to other minor but still unwanted problems, such as hair removal and damage to the delicate skin around the mouth. According to Dr. Pena Orbea, mouth taping can also “cause an allergic reaction from the tape or a skin irritation or rash.”
What Should I Do Instead?
First things first, if you have a cold or allergies, try taking antihistamines and decongestants. According to Harvard Medical Specialists, you can also try using firmer pillows to prop up the head and better drain mucus.
If neither of those solves the issue, it’s time to look for an underlying cause with medical professionals. To get started, Dentist Juliette Tampkin of Sherman Oaks, California recommends seeing an airway-centric dentist or orthodontist, ENT, oral surgeon, allergist, and/or sleep doctor. According to Dr. Dasgupta, if a medical professional rules out sleep apnea, you can try nasal strips, nasal dilators, or tongue exercises to reduce snoring.
Above all, the takeaway here is simple: if you are having sleep issues, speak to a medical professional. Additionally, remember that social media is unverified, so always maintain a critical eye toward trends.