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What tape is the most effective to keep the mouth shut at night? Will mouth tape facilitate nose breathing? Where to find mouth tape for a specific condition, and how much will it cost?
When it comes to better breathing, learning 100% nasal breathing is foundational, so despite its humble profile and low cost, mouth tape is a health game-changer.
Mouth tape is a vital tool to establish breathing normalization and is necessary for any mouth breather who decides to pursue the Buteyko breathing method. The practice of nighttime mouth taping is also recommended by dentists who know the dangers of mouth breathing for oral health.
This article outlines and reviews which brands of tape and styles are available and what not to use. In recent years, the wellness movement has popularized breathing as a trendy health hack, so a few specialty mouth tapes have hit the market.
Tape you have sitting around the house isn’t recommended!
Mouth tapes are one of your best allies as you master one of the key fundamentals of breathing less: taming the habit of mouth-breathing.
Facts and fiction about mouth tape
As breathing for health continues to gain momentum, owing to bestselling books like Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, the Wim Hof method, and a growing understanding of the Buteyko method in western medicine, mouth tape has gotten its share of media attention.
News articles rarely provide specific instructions, and some only serve to confuse health seekers with fearmongering. Articles with clickbait headlines note the absence of rigorous scientific study, but then claim mouth-taping is nothing more than a “viral trend.”
Even articles that emphasize the dangers of mouth breathing use exaggerated photos that misrepresent how to sensibly tape the mouth shut. But mouth taping isn’t so dramatic. It requires buying the right kind of tape, using it consistently, and creating a steady nighttime routine.
This article from The New York Times Magazine is factual and detailed, while The Buteyko Breathing Center gives testimonials on the benefits of mouth tape while sleeping. Evidence-based writing on the web includes advice from family dentists, since nasal breathing improves teeth grinding, bad breath, and decreases cavities.
Although a few media outlets have chosen hype over facts by mouth taping as silly, ineffective, or even dangerous, learning to breathe correctly is not a fad.
The practice of proper breathing stands the test of time.
Dr. Buteyko taught a sensible, rational, step-by-step approach, so while sensationalized online photos of people with duct tape across their mouths get attention, they are far from accurate. Mouth taping is completely safe unless you are at risk for vomiting. If you have concerns about skin irritation, read on for where to find hypoallergenic tapes.
What is mouth tape and how is it used?
During initial coaching, a certified Buteyko practitioner will advise buying mouth tape and using it every night. This brief video demonstrates how to use mouth tape.
Despite the power of this simple tool, Dr. Butekyo never patented or promoted a specific brand of mouth tape. Most new Buteyko students buy a non-sticky medical tape at a nearby drugstore, but other options may work better for some people.
Mouth tape isn’t sold exclusively by Buteyko sites, although specialty tapes have recently hit the market. Any small tape can be used; however, some types are more practical and popular for these benefits:
- Easy to tear
- Doesn’t irritate sensitive skin
- Adheres well
Sleeping is the ideal time to begin reducing heavy mouth breathing because we tend to breathe more deeply as we sleep. We also spend a third of our lives sleeping, so a closed mouth at night is an opportunity to normalize the habit of nasal breathing.
Products and reviews
Tapes can be found in drugstores, Walmart stores, and online via Amazon or directly through the manufacturer.
- Kinesiology tape
Kinesiology tape is used for taping athletic injuries. It’s main advantage for mouth taping is a single strip can be reused over several nights. The cost, therefore, is low. The disadvantage of kinesiology tape is it comes in a long roll and needs to be cut to size. Some people may also prefer to avoid reusing the same strip of tape.
Pricier varieties come in pre-cut strips, like the KT brand which offers multiple colors. These are priced from $19.97 to $22.99 for 20 pre-cut pieces that can be cut into multiple, smaller pieces for mouth taping.
Some kinesiology tapes come with holes, which won’t significantly reduce adhesion. This style may reassure some who don’t like the idea of taping the whole mouth; the tape itself will keep lips together despite the holes.
Kinesiology tape is highly effective and is also sometimes referred to as “sports tape” that wicks away any moisture. This product is NOT the same as “self-adhesive” tape used for sprained ankles or wraps.
Photo courtesy Amazon and KT Tapes
- 3M medical grade tape
3M tape comes in rolls, is easy to find, and tears on both sides.
This product from Nexcare is a removable tape made specifically to tape gauze and bandages gently to the skin. It can be torn off the roll in both directions, so it is easy to use just before going to sleep.
The 3M Nexcare brand can be found online or at most drug stores.
3M tape is found in hospitals where it is called 3M Micropore S Surgical Tape. The semi-translucent design easily peels off skin. Medical professionals also call it micropore tape because it lets the skin breathe, or sometimes refer to it as blue tape.
Nexcare also sells a variety for sensitive skin, which is slightly more expensive. Of all the tapes reviewed, this one is probably the easiest to find, either from Nexcare or in generic form, as it is sold at Walgreens.
- Generic medical paper tape
These products are the same as 3M but is sometimes cheaper or easier to find if Nexcare isn’t available locally. It peels off quickly and can be torn off in small strips. It is the most affordable option on this list, but the price differential isn’t substantial, as a roll goes a long way and will likely last many months.
- Somnifix brand specialty tape
Somnifix is marketed specifically as mouth tape.
This brand is specifically designed as mouth tape, listing four advantages:
- Promote nose breathing
- Reduce open-mouth snoring
- Boost CPAP experience
- Improve sleep quality
Those advantages work for all mouth tapes, but this design may be reassuring for those concerned with not being able to breathe at night. The tape has a small, central “patented vent” to let in air, if necessary, but the strip covers the whole mouth, so it prevents opening the mouth. In this way, Somnifix reduces or eliminates mouth breathing at night.
This is by far the most expensive option, with 28 strips for $24.00, and they are not marketed as reusable. However, many Buteyko clients report re-using the same strip for several nights.
- Other specialty mouth tapes
Breathing well is evolving business, so several companies produce mouth tapes in various shapes and colors that suggest they are more effective than a simple strip of generic 3M tape. One features an “X” shape, and another forms a ring in black outside the mouth, which may be useful for anyone who feels uncomfortable taping their lips shut.
The downsides of the oval-shaped, around-the-mouth variety include:
- Leaving a dark residue
- Not fitting your mouth size
- More expensive
Prices range from $10 for 60 pieces, to $15 for 30 pieces. This is significantly more expensive than generic 3M tape from your local drug store, but costs less than Somnifix. Specialty brands cost more and provide few benefits over 3M tape.
Image courtesy Linhealth and Amazon.
- Athletic tape
Used for wrapping injuries, this lightweight and completely non-elastic product is breathable and peels off the skin as well as 3M tape. The fabric is cotton and it holds well in place. Because it is pure white and opaque, or comes in bright colors, it will be easier to locate if you remove it during the night.
Athletic tape does not leave any residue, and tears easily off the roll. AUPCON sells 3 rolls for $23.00, so it is somewhat more expensive that generic medical tape but a bargain compared to specialty tapes.
Athletic tape, courtesy Cramer Team and Amazon
- Hypoallergenic medical tape
Medvance soft silicone tape has two advantages: it reduces the possibility of an allergic reaction and comes in a slightly blue shade. The color makes it easier to locate if you happen to remove it. Medvance is waterproof and latex-free, and easy to tear. The feel is similar to 3M medical tape. This tape is also used for blisters and covering minor wounds.
At $27 for 15 feet (in three dispensers), this product is similar in price to 3M tape and you are unlikely to run out for many months.
What to avoid
Avoid using sticky tape, or varieties that require scissors. Common household “scotch” tape, masking tape, duct tape, and electrical tape should be avoided due to stickiness, leaving a residue, and the potential for skin irritation.
Chin straps that keep the mouth closed are also a bad idea; they are sold as an antidote to snoring and sleep apnea but research demonstrates they are ineffective.
The easiest tape to use is one that readily tears, can be put on a bedside stand or hung up in a roll, can be replaced easily, and is designed for safe use on human skin.
Unusual and special circumstances
Mouth taping assures nasal breathing, but it can feel uncomfortable or unnatural at first. The barrier can be psychological, as tape is safe for most people. Some people have additional physical barriers, however.
Some individuals experience such strong nasal congestion, they cannot use a mouth tape or use it consistently throughout the night. Dr. Buteyko commented directly on this dilemma. He wrote that if you need to make a choice between breathing through your mouth at night (because your nose is congested) and using a medication or device to open the nose at night, choose the medication. Its side effects will be less harmful than mouth-breathing.
For another subgroup, mouth tape presents another problem. Men with beards or mustaches or women with significant facial hair find themselves resisting using tape because of the hassle of removal and the difficulty of getting secure adhesion. Mouth tape doesn’t stick well to hair, but rather to skin.
A 30-pack of Dryft sleep strips costs $24 and allows users to place the lip-shaped strip on lips only, thereby providing better adhesion but still keeping lips shut. Dryft suggests ensuring lips are clean from balm or chapstick, and positioning the top part of the tape on the lip only, out of contact with any hair.
Dryft shows how to use their hassle-free mouth tape.
Overcoming your resistance on the path less traveled
“Can’t I learn the breathing exercises first?”
When you use mouth tape consistently at night, you take a confident leap toward mastering 100% nasal breathing. As you oxygenize the body with correct breathing, health benefits begin to appear.
The Buteyko Breathing Center has worked with thousands of clients with every health condition imaginable, and all new students start at the same place: correcting the inefficient and harmful breathing habits of a lifetime.
Like any new habit, mouth taping takes practice. Some find using the tape during the day when at home can make nighttime use feel more natural.
The most common barrier to using mouth tape successfully is a belief that the tape will restrict, worsen, or impair breathing. If you suffer with clogged sinuses, it may seem impossible to breathe only through the nose. You can help overcome clogged sinuses by breathing through your nose throughout the day and by learning to consistently tape your mouth shut at night.
Another nighttime problem is awakening to find a strip of tape on your pillow, pajamas, or elsewhere. Over time, you will get more used to the tape and eventually wake up with it still covering your mouth.
The simplest tool is often the most powerful
Mouth tape is one of the easiest ways to normalize nighttime breathing. It is far less of a hassle than other sleep aids prescribed by medical science, such as CPAP machines, and less expensive. For most people, it is easier than using a Buteyko belt at night.
The Buteyko Breathing Center recommends charting a course of self-education using the center’s resources or investing in more advanced techniques with a certified specialist. If you are unsure about how to create your own practice, we recommend starting with videos and literature, which are low cost or free.
When you buy and use a mouth tape product, you are taking a first small step on an incredible journey. You will find yourself in a new world of health and vitality with regular practice.
The Buteyko Breathing Center also offers books, videos, and an extensive archive of blog articles on breathing-related topics. Sasha Yakovleva and other Buteyko Breathing Specialists trained by her will answer questions in a free preliminary session, or you can choose individual coaching or group sessions.