Nighttime Bacteria: What Happens in Your Mouth While You Sleep

  • By StarBrite Dental
  • 30 Dec, 2016

Have you ever wondered why your mouth is sometimes so sour first thing in the morning? This phenomenon, known colloquially as “morning breath,” happens because the bacteria in your mouth experience ideal conditions for reproduction at night. It’s not an attractive thought that you have an abundance of bacteria in your mouth in the morning, but that is the case. The result of that abundance is a sticky, filmy mouth and smelly gases that you perceive as morning breath.

What’s different about your mouth during the night? Mostly a lack of saliva. Your body automatically reduces its flow of saliva at night, but this means that bacteria is not continually being washed away the way it is during the day. Saliva is also high in oxygen, which directly kills some bacteria.

Also, there’s not as much for bacteria to eat at night. Carbohydrates are their preferred food and you’re not eating any and leaving remnants in your mouth for them to eat. So they look for proteins which can include your body’s mucus membranes. Their digestion of mucus membranes is not as efficient, resulting in the gases we hate to inflict on our partners.

Cleaning Your Teeth at Night

Most people clean their teeth most thoroughly at night, which is a very good practice. Furthermore, it does deprive mouth bacteria of any nutrients. Modifying your nighttime ritual can not only result in clean, healthy teeth but also can also reduce your mouth’s bacterial count. Follow this regimen for the best results:

  1. Floss thoroughly, even behind the back teeth.
  2. Brush your teeth with a soft brush for two full minutes. Many people think they brush for two minutes, but 35 to 45 seconds is actually the average. You might set a timer to help you brush for two minutes until you get the hang of it.
  3. Clean your tongue, either with a tongue scraper or a soft brush and oxygenating toothpaste.
  4. Use an antiseptic mouthwash but don’t use one that contains alcohol (nearly all popular mouthwashes do). Ask your dentist to recommend a good mouth rinse for you. One that oxygenates your mouth will keep down the growth of bacteria.

Using an irrigator is another step that will help you clean out smaller food particles that would feed bacteria. Ask your dentist if he or she recommends irrigation.

Once you have cleaned your mouth thoroughly, do not eat or drink anything but water before you go to bed. It’s a good idea to drink a little water if you wake up during the night so you can moisten your mouth.

In the morning, it’s not usually hard to get rid of morning breath. Floss first, then brush, then eat and drink.. If your sour mouth persists, then it’s not just morning breath. Your dentist can help you diagnose any other problem that could contribute to that bad taste and smell.

Eliminating Dry Mouth

If you breathe through your mouth while you sleep or take certain medications, your mouth will be dryer than normal. Which, of course, improves conditions for bacterial reproduction. There are more than a hundred medications which have dry mouth as a side effect. Ask your dentist about a moisturizing rinse for your mouth.

If you have sleep apnea, your mouth will be open more than usual at night and thus will dry out. Talk to your dentist about remedies for apnea.

If you suffer from chronic nasal congestion, this will also make you breathe through your mouth and dry out your mouth. Consult your doctor for a resolution of this congestion.

With a little time and attention, you can greatly reduce the nighttime growth of bacteria. This is not only good for giving you sweet morning breath, it helps your whole mouth stay healthier.

If you are experiencing a dental emergency or simply need to schedule an appointment for a routine exam or cleaning, please give StarBrite Dental, the Office of Dr. Maryam Seifi, a call at   (301) 770-1070.

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