Dry mouth is a common problem that people experience when they have sleep apnea because they tend to breathe through their mouths. Unfortunately, treatment with CPAP might actually make the problem worse. When you have a dry mouth, it also might make you cough more. In today’s concern of COVID-19, the last thing we want to do is cough. Find out how CPAP causes dry mouth and what you can do to resolve it.

Man sleeping while wearing a CPAP mask.

How CPAP Causes Dry Mouth

CPAP forces air into your body (which is part of the reason it causes gassiness, too). When there are leaks in the CPAP mask, that air escapes the body, carrying with it all the moisture your body is generating to keep your mouth, nose, and throat moist. It’s like blow-drying inside your body, and it can be quite severe and even painful.

Leaks can occur around an improperly fitted mask. Many people who use a nose-only mask may also find that they sleep with their mouth open, allowing air and moisture to escape.

CPAP Dry Mouth: How to Avoid It

There are many strategies to try and avoid CPAP dry mouth. First, make sure your current CPAP mask is properly fitted. This helps avoid leaks.

Using a humidifier in your CPAP can help, although it may not be enough if you have leaks or have your mouth open.

Strategies to keep your mouth closed include using a chin strap that pulls the mouth closed. Some people even tape their mouths closed.

If you can’t comfortably keep your mouth closed at night, you can try some medications for dry mouth. These stimulate saliva and coat airway tissues with a protective film that helps prevent drying.

You can also try changing to a different mask. Especially if you currently have a nose-only mask, you might try getting a full face mask. This improves the effectiveness of a humidifier, but it may be less comfortable and may increase the risk of acne breakouts. However, humidifiers may help reduce snoring. It might be worth the acne if it helps the CPAP dry mouth and snoring.

Unfortunately, some patients also experience CPAP dry nose in addition to dry mouth. This can make the nose feel uncomfortably dry upon waking. Is a CPAP humidifier right for your dry mouth?

There’s an Alternative to CPAP and Dry Mouth

But if you find that your dry mouth is worse with CPAP and just doesn’t get any better, maybe you need to consider another treatment option. An oral appliance can put your airway into a comfortable, open position that allows you to breathe more normally without causing more drying than you would normally experience while breathing through your mouth.

To learn whether an oral appliance could work for your sleep apnea, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.