Mouth Taping

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on May 22, 2024
10 min read

Can something as simple as taping your mouth at night provide benefits for sleep apnea, snoring, and bad breath? Read on to learn why it’s not a proven treatment and could be dangerous to your health.

Mouth taping involves placing special adhesive tape over your lips at night to keep your mouth closed and to stop mouth breathing while you sleep. 

Mouth taping is a popular health and wellness trend. You may have seen social media influencers sharing their experiences with mouth taping. Maybe a mouth tape ad has popped up on your social media feed. 

Before you get mouth tape at your pharmacy or put it in your online shopping cart, you should know that it’s not a proven medical therapy. What few studies that have been done are small. More larger studies are needed before any claims can be proven.

Benefits of nose breathing

Mouth taping does force you to breathe through your nose. Breathing through your nose has many benefits that mouth breathing doesn’t, including:

  • Controlling the temperature of the air you breathe, so the air that reaches your lungs is not too cold or too warm
  • Filtering allergens, debris, or toxins from the air before they reach your lungs 
  • Making the air you breathe humid, keeping your mouth and throat moist

Problems with mouth breathing

The theory behind mouth taping also goes that by breathing through your nose, you can avoid negative side effects linked to mouth breathing while sleeping, including:

  • Bad breath
  • Daytime fatigue or tiredness
  • Dry mouth
  • Poor oral health, including cavities and gum disease
  • Reduced mental skills, especially working memory
  • Symptoms related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Sleep disordered breathing, including sleep apnea
  • Slowed growth in children

Children who mouth breathe can develop “mouth breathing face” – a narrowed face with a receding chin and jaw.

So far, there have been very few, if any, scientific studies on whether mouth taping actually does these things. More research is needed to verify these claims, including how often you should tape your mouth or what kind of tape works best.

If you breathe through your mouth at night, you might find such a simple solution tempting. But does mouth taping really work? Here’s what scant research has found to date:

Mouth taping for snoring or sleep apnea

Snoring throughout the night is often a hallmark of sleep apnea. Mouth taping may help if you have mild sleep apnea.  One pilot study of 30 

people with mild sleep apnea who often breathed through their mouth at night found mouth taping helped them snore less. None of the people in the study had any nasal obstructions, such as nasal polyps or enlarged tonsils. 

Another study of 20 people with mild sleep apnea found mouth taping reduced snoring, especially in people with positional sleep apnea – those whose symptoms are caused by sleeping on their back. 

Mouth taping can prevent people with sleep apnea from breathing in through their mouth, but it doesn’t always prevent them from breathing out through their mouth – a phenomenon known as mouth puffing. One study of 71 people with sleep apnea who taped their mouth for one night found those with severe sleep apnea still tried to breathe through their mouth or mouth puffed. 

One study of 21 people whose mild to moderate sleep apnea was treated with a mandibular advancement device found that adding adhesive mouthpiece therapy – another name for mouth taping – reduced their apnea-hypopnea (AHI) index score compared to using the oral device alone. A mandibular advancement device is an oral appliance fitted by your dentist that pushes your jaw and tongue forward to keep your airway open while sleeping. The AHI index shows how severe your sleep apnea is by measuring the number of times your breathing slows or stops during an average hour of sleep.

Mouth taping for asthma control

Since nose breathing helps filter, warm, and moisten the air you breathe, researchers in one small study of 50 people with asthma looked at whether mouth taping could help control asthma. The result: Mouth taping every night for 26 or 28 nights had no effect on asthma control. 

Mouth taping has not been proven to treat any health issue. Some people use mouth taping to control chronic or heavy snoring. But snoring that gets in the way of sleep is often a sign of obstructive sleep apnea. 

If you have sleep apnea or think you do, talk to your doctor. Sleep apnea is a common condition, but it’s often undiagnosed or untreated. Uncontrolled sleep apnea can lead to problems with:

  • Concentrating, remembering things, or controlling behavior
  • Daytime fatigue and tiredness
  • Dementia in older adults
  • Learning disabilities in children

Sleep apnea also increases your risk of:

  • Asthma
  • Diseases of your heart and blood vessels
  • Pancreatic, renal, and skin cancers
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Eye problems, such glaucoma and dry eye
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Type 2 diabetes

Mouth taping side effects

Because there are so few studies on mouth taping, it’s not yet clear what side effects it may cause. But anecdotal side effects – those reported or reviewed by people who have used mouth taping – include: 

  • Anxiety from having their mouth taped shut
  • Discomfort or a hard time breathing through their nose
  • Irritation on or around their lips
  • Pain when taking off the mouth tape, especially if they have facial hair 
  • Trouble sleeping from being uncomfortable with the mouth tape or with nose breathing

Who should not use mouth taping?

According to at least one mouth tape manufacturer, you should not use mouth taping if you have:

  • A cold, or an ear or sinus infection
  • Consumed alcohol or taken sedatives
  • Nasal breathing problems, such as nasal polyps
  • Obesity, defined as a body mass index, or BMI, over 35
  • Severe heart or lung problems
  • Severely chapped lips or irritated or broken skin on your lips or around your mouth

Mouth taping is exactly as it sounds. You place a piece of tape over your mouth before you go to sleep. But it’s not just any adhesive tape. And there are steps you can take to make it safer and more comfortable. 

What tape should I use for mouth taping?

Even though mouth taping is an at-home treatment, don’t use common adhesive tape, since it is not breathable and contains glues that can irritate skin or cause an allergic reaction. And definitely never use duct tape.

While there aren’t any studies that recommend what tape you should use, these tips can help you limit or avoid skin reactions or general discomfort. When choosing a mouth tape, look for:

  • Medical-grade tape, which is made for use on human skin
  • Porous or breathable tape or mouth strips. Some strips contain center holes or slits.
  • Hypoallergenic tape, which is gentle on sensitive skin
  • Flexible tape for comfort

Some companies make special mouth tape or mouth strips. You can also use hypoallergenic surgical or athletic tape that meets the above requirements. 

Some people use a tape wide enough to cover their top and bottom lips. Others cut two pieces to make an X mark over their top and bottom lips. 

Steps for mouth taping

Remember, there’s little evidence that mouth taping has health or wellness benefits. Since it’s not a proven medical therapy, it has no approved medical or dental guidelines. If you are interested in mouth taping, here’s how to do it as safely as possible: 

  • Talk to your doctor first to get the all-clear for your health. They can also help figure out why you may breathe through your mouth while you sleep. It may be something as simple as nasal polyps or enlarged tonsils that keep you from breathing through your nose, or something more serious, like sleep apnea, that requires proven medical treatment. 
  • Brush your teeth before placing the tape over your mouth before sleep. This is just good oral hygiene. 
  • Moisturize the skin on or around your lips with a lip balm or petroleum jelly. This can help reduce irritation.
  • Follow the package directions for whatever mouth tape or strip you use. 

It may help to do a test run, for a few hours during the day or during a short nap, to see whether you can tolerate it. If you find you have trouble breathing or can’t breathe through your nose, take off the mouth tape. Let your doctor know that you can’t get enough air in through your nose. You may have allergies or an obstruction that your doctor can treat. 

Alternatives to mouth taping depend on what you want to achieve. 

Helping you breathe through your nose

To help you breathe through your nose while you sleep, you can try over-the-nose dilators or nasal strips. These are adhesive strips you put on the bridge of your nose that help open up your nasal passages. Nasal strips can make it easier for you to breathe through your nose. 

It’s not clear whether nasal strips prevent snoring: Some studies find they do, and some find they don’t. Nasal strips, when used alone, don’t help improve sleep apnea symptoms, a study showed. And two recent randomized controlled trials comparing Breathe Right Nasal Strips to a sham strip (one that didn’t open the nasal passages) found it didn’t help relieve nasal congestion in people who have chronic or ongoing nighttime congestion.

Allergies and asthma are common reasons for nasal congestion. If allergies and asthma are making it hard to breathe through your nose, treating these conditions should help you breathe easier at night. Your doctor can help you choose the right medication for your allergies or asthma. 

Preventing snoring 

When you sleep on your back or stomach, gravity’s effect on your throat causes your airway to narrow or close up. Sleeping on your back can contribute to snoring and worsen symptoms of sleep apnea.

Lateral or side sleeping can prevent snoring and ease sleep apnea symptoms. Instead of mouth taping, you may try to train yourself to sleep on your side. Long-standing research finds sleeping on your side reduces snoring in people with and without sleep apnea. In people with sleep apnea, evidence finds side sleeping can help reduce the number and severity of apneas, or episodes when you stop breathing, during the night. 

One way to train yourself to sleep on your side is to use a wedge pillow behind your back that keeps you from lying flat on your back. There are also electronic devices – some that you can buy over the counter and some that require a doctor’s prescription – that vibrate when you shift onto your back or stomach. 

Preventing bad breath or poor dental health

If you’re interested in mouth taping because of bad breath or poor dental health, talk to your dentist. They can go over your dental health to make sure you don’t have any hidden cavities or plaque buildup that can cause bad breath and poor dental health. 

Practicing good oral hygiene can also help reduce bad breath. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing your teeth and tongue twice daily using a fluoride toothpaste, and doing interdental cleaning, or flossing, once a day. The ADA also recommends regular dental checkups and teeth cleanings, at least once a year. Depending on your oral health, you may need to see your dentist more often. 

Some people want to try mouth taping to get rid of dry mouth. But you can also get dry mouth from certain medications you take, such as diuretics or some heart meds, that reduce your saliva production. An autoimmune disorder called Sjögren’s syndrome also causes dry mouth. Treatments for dry mouth include sucking on sugar-free candy or gum or replacing saliva with a moisturizing oral rinse. 

Treating sleep apnea

Proven treatments for sleep apnea include:

  • CPAP therapy, which uses a continuous positive airway pressure machine
  • Lifestyle changes, including getting regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol, and quitting smoking
  • Oral appliance therapy, such as devices that move your tongue or jaw to keep your airways open while you sleep. Your dentist can custom-fit an oral device to your mouth. 
  • Orofacial therapy to help strengthen the tongue and muscles that control your lips, tongue, upper airway, and face
  • Surgery, including procedures to remove nasal or airway obstructions or an implant that stimulates nerves in your throat to keep your airways open at night

Mouth taping is a popular health and wellness trend that uses special adhesive tape over your mouth while you sleep to stop you from mouth breathing. So far, there have been very few studies on mouth taping to show whether it can treat or prevent any issues related to mouth breathing. Doctors and dentists don’t recommend mouth taping because there’s not enough scientific evidence to show it works for health or wellness. 

Do dentists recommend mouth taping? The American Dental Association does not include mouth taping under its dental care guidelines or list of treatments for sleep apnea. One small study found adding mouth taping to using a mandibular advancement device to treat mild to moderate sleep apnea worked better at reducing sleep apnea symptoms than using the oral appliance therapy alone. But more and larger studies are needed to know whether that works for everyone.

Does mouth taping improve the jawline? Don’t believe the social media hype. There are no scientific studies that show mouth taping improves jawline or facial features. 

How long does it take to see results from mouth taping? There are not enough studies on mouth taping to know how often you need to do it to get benefits.

Can mouth breathing face be reversed in adults? If your jaw or chin is recessed from mouth breathing, surgery to correct your jaw or chin, known as orthognathic surgery, can help with both form and function. 

Can you train yourself to sleep with your mouth closed? It depends on your sleep position. Gravity works against you if you sleep on your back or even on your stomach. You may find it easier to sleep with your mouth closed if you train yourself to sleep on your side.