Continuous positive airway pressure therapy is a commonly used treatment to cure sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a severe sleep disorder where the patient’s breathing repeatedly starts and stops.
Usually, the patient feels tired after a full night’s sleep along with sore throat and jaw muscles.
One of the everyday oral habits that people with sleep apnea develop is mouth breathing and snoring.
The continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) uses a hose and a mask to deliver and maintain constant steady air pressure.
While this therapy may be life-saving, there are common side effects that the patient may suffer while undergoing CPAP therapy.
Some of the common side effects of CPAP therapy include trouble falling asleep, stuffy nose and dry mouth.
However, there are several ways to eliminate the severity of these side effects. In some cases, dry mouth may indicate adjustment of the CPAP equipment.
Today we will specifically focus on preventing dry mouth while undergoing CPAP therapy. Continue to read further to find out how CPAP works and how you can avoid CPAP induced dry mouth.
What do you mean by CPAP?
CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. It is a form of treatment that consists of a positive airway pressure ventilator used to maintain and deliver a constant flow of mild air pressure.
This therapy is used in patients suffering from sleep apnea, where the patient cannot breathe adequately on his own. (1)
CPAP is an alternative therapy for positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP). Another use of CPAP is in infants with respiratory distress syndrome in which the lungs of the baby are not fully developed.
How does CPAP machine work?
The most common type of sleep apnea cured by continuous positive air pressure therapy is obstructive sleep apnea.
During obstructive sleep apnea, the airway becomes blocked while the patient is asleep. As a consequence, the breathing stops abruptly and then starts again throughout the night.
The CPAP machine consists of a hose and a mask or nose device which is used to deliver a continuous and steady flow of air through the nose or mouth during the night.
What is the cause of CPAP dry mouth?
Dry mouth is one of the common side effects of using a CPAP machine. (2)
There are typically two reasons for the development of dry mouth during the therapy –
- Dry mouth caused due to the habit of mouth breathing during the night while breathing the CPAP forced air through the nose. (3)
- Dry mouth caused by the use of a CPAP mask that delivers air through the nose and mouth.
Another common reason for CPAP induced dry mouth is a leaky mask. If the CPAP mask is too big or too small, it increases the tendency of air leakage which can dry out the mouth or in some cases the nasal passage as well.
How can you prevent CPAP induced dry mouth?
The first thing while treating dry mouth is to rule out the cause of it. Check for any medications or medical conditions that the patient may have.
Dry mouth caused by CPAP therapy can be prevented easily by following the below mentioned steps –
Check the CPAP equipment
An ill-fitting mask or a leaky mask breaks the continuous air pressure flow into the mouth and lungs of the patient.
As a consequence, the patient loses moisture in the mouth and throat, leading to a dry mouth.
While starting the CPAP therapy, always check the size of the mask. (4)
- Choose a mask that fits the shape of your face and does not leak air.
- Never tighten the straps of an ill-fitting mask to make it fit properly. This is not a reliable method, and the patient may end up having pressure marks and bruises on the face.
Use additional equipment
If you prefer to use a nose mask that doesn’t extend over your mouth, it will be wise to add a chin strap as an add on with the equipment.
This prevents the patient from mouth breathing during the night. The chin straps wrap under the jaw and hold the mouth closed throughout the night.
Some of the CPAP equipment consists of heated humidifiers which send moisten air to the mouth and nose. This option is beneficial in the elimination of dry mouth induced by CPAP therapy.
You can consult your doctor to know more about the heated humidifiers.
Keep yourself hydrated
Drinking plenty of water as soon as you wake up and hydrating yourself throughout the day will help to replenish the fluids and maintain constant moisture in the mouth.
It also eliminates the risk of dehydration caused by CPAP therapy.
Other common methods
Some general home-based methods to relieve dry mouth may include –
- Reduction of salt and sugar intake
- Use of a mouth rinse will help to prevent bad breath and maintain moisture in the mouth.
- Chewing sugar-free gums containing xylitol helps to promote salivary flow in the mouth.
Take away message
CPAP is an effective way of treating sleep apnea and take you a long way in maintaining continuous breath during the night.
Compliance to a CPAP device may be tough and uncomfortable. Sometimes it may require time to adjust to the equipment.
However, it is a necessary treatment to avoid obstructive sleep apnea and its symptoms.
One of the common side effects of using CPAP therapy is dry mouth. Typically CPAP induced dry mouth is either caused by the habit of mouth breathing during the night or an ill-fitting mask that may leak the air out of the mask.
If your CPAP machine the prime cause for dry mouth, consult your doctor or dentist to replace the equipment and use a better fitting mask.
Use of additional equipment like a chin strap to prevent mouth breathing and heated humidifier to allow the continuous passage of moist air in the mouth and lungs can also help to eliminate dry mouth.
Meanwhile, maintain good oral hygiene, drink plenty of water, and consider an alcohol-free mouthwash to take extra care of your mouth and oral health.
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