Should You Tape Lips to Prevent Air Leaks and Dry Mouth with CPAP?

Leaks May Improve with a Full-face Mask or Allergy Treatment

Taping lips closed may improve dry mouth with CPAP, but not without risks
Taping lips closed may improve dry mouth with CPAP, but not without risks. nicolesy/E+/Getty Images

When air leaks from your mouth while using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), you may seek a solution. You may experience dry mouth and be concerned about possible tooth decay. Should you tape your lips shut to prevent the leak? Why might taping your lips be a bad idea? Learn about the options and alternatives - including the use of a chinstrap or full-face mask - that might provide you a more comfortable experience.

What Causes Air Leaks from the Mouth with CPAP?

It is not uncommon to encounter air leaks when using CPAP or bilevel. As the treatment for sleep apnea consists of delivering pressurized room air through a mask, it is bound to happen. The air will travel the path of least resistance, and sometimes it will escape around the edges of the mask or even leave via your open mouth.

Air leaks through the mouth can quickly lead to dry mouth. You may suspect this if you wake with a dry mouth, tongue, or throat. You may feel hoarse when you wake up in the morning. You may feel like you have to keep a glass of water at your bedside. Alternatively, your bed partner may notice that air seems to be escaping from your mouth while you sleep. This mouth leak can be uncomfortable, to the point that you may decide to stop using your CPAP. You may wish to seek solutions to this, and you might even contemplate taping your lips closed.

Should You Tape Your Mouth Closed in Sleep?

It is not recommended that people tape their lips closed when using CPAP overnight. When asleep, which is clearly a state of unconsciousness, you may not be able to wake up if your breathing is compromised by the taped mouth. If the machine stops working in a power failure, for example, it is conceivable that you may not wake to remove the tape.

Theoretically, carbon dioxide could build in your blood and this could cause you to slip deeper into sleep, confusion, or even coma.

During periods when you might vomit, such as after drinking alcohol excessively or when sick with the stomach flu, the risks of taping your mouth closed increase considerably. A depressed level of consciousness and vomiting with a taped mouth may lead to the contents of your stomach going into your lungs, an event called aspiration. This may cause pneumonia or even death via asphyxiation.

The risk of asphyxiation, or suffocation, is not worth the advantage of preventing a leak of air from your mouth. The danger exists for any type of tape that you may consider using, but concern is especially high for tape that would not gradually lift during the night, such as cloth tape.

What Alternatives Exist to Taping the Mouth?

There are other options to address mouth breathing or air leak on CPAP. You might consider using a chinstrap to keep your mouth from falling open.

You could use a full-face CPAP mask that covers both your nose and mouth, allowing air to move within the pressurized system, even if it goes through your mouth. You might also need to have your CPAP pressure adjusted by your doctor.

Consider the possible role of your nose. Many people open their mouths because they experience nasal congestion. This may be due to untreated allergies. It might be due to a deviated septum, which could be corrected via surgery.

If you have a problem with air leaking from your mouth while using your CPAP or waking with dry mouth, you should start by speaking with your durable medical equipment provider or your sleep physician. Solutions can be arranged without having to resort to the dangerous practice of taping your mouth closed.

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