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A happy young woman smiles and flashes the peace sign on her bed.A happy young woman smiles and flashes the peace sign on her bed.

How Sleeping Better Affects Your Oral Health

By: BeSeen Team

Date: June 6, 2023

There is no question that sleep is as essential as food. Catching enough zzzs makes you less sick, improves your mood, and boosts energy. But no one ever thinks that tips on how to sleep better can help your oral health. What is the connection between hitting the sack and having a healthy smile?  

How Sleep Quality Affects Your Teeth and Gums   

Sleep helps your body tackle cell growth, defence, and repair tasks. According to a study published in BMC Oral Health, it keeps your immune system strong enough to fight infections from bacteria overgrowth in your mouth. Improving your sleep can also help manage the impact of stress on your dental health. 

1. Poor sleep quality may increase the risk of gum disease. 

An American study reported eye-opening results after looking at the health and sleep habits of over 10,000 people. To examine how sleep duration links to gum disease or periodontitis, the researchers divided sleep duration into three categories: 

  • Not enough sleep (less than seven hours) 
  • Just enough sleep (seven to eight hours) 
  • Too much sleep (more than eight hours)  

Findings show that people who reported not getting enough sleep had a 36% higher chance of having gum disease than those who got just enough slumber. Conversely, people who reported getting too much sleep had a 41% higher chance of having periodontitis. While this study doesn’t prove that lack of sleep causes gum disease, it suggests inadequacy can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections in your mouth. 

You might wonder, “Does lack of sleep cause cavities and toothaches?” It’s not impossible. Research suggests that sleep deprivation can lead to a decrease in salivary flow and an increase in the presence of caries-causing bacteria.

2. Stress-sleep cycle contributes to teeth grinding. 

A young Asian family of three smiling for the camera while lying on a bed.
A Pediatrics International study reported that children with less than eight hours of sleep a day were 1.17 times more likely to have tooth decay.

One of the often-overlooked physical manifestations of stress is bruxism, the habit of unconsciously grinding or clenching your teeth. Although this can happen at any time of the day, teeth grinding occurs frequently during sleep. 

Sometimes the condition can disrupt your sleep, or the sound becomes loud enough to wake a sleeping partner. You may also wake up with a toothache and stiffness in the face and temples. Other signs of bruxism reported by the Australian Dental Association (AAD) include: 

  • Jaw pain or stiffness 
  • Headaches  
  • Earaches 
  • Neck pain 
  • Hypersensitive teeth
  • Worn or chipped teeth 
  • Gum inflammation  

Over time, teeth grinding or clenching can cause your teeth to move and shift, leading to teeth crowding or affecting your bite. It can also give rise to oral health complications like temporomandibular disorders (TMD). Also, sleep and stress can trap you in a vicious cycle. Poor sleep quality increases your stress levels, costing you more sleep loss. 

Apart from stress, AAD says teeth grinding points to sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). 

3. Tooth decay can develop faster in a dry mouth. 

Snoring and sleep apnoea may develop if you breathe through your mouth as you sleep. Mouth breathing causes xerostomia, also known as dry mouth. 

A dry mouth, that parched feeling when you wake up, dries saliva, which is bad news for your oral health. Saliva washes away harmful bacteria and acids in your mouth to prevent cavities. You can’t keep your mouth clean if your saliva flow is compromised. 

Apart from dry mouth, other symptoms of mouth breathing are: 

  • Bad breath 
  • Drool on pillows 
  • Daytime sleepiness  
  • Malocclusion (your upper and lower teeth don’t align) 

Consult a physician if you have a chronic dry mouth or breathe through your mouth when you sleep. Mouth breathing indicates you may have nasal congestion, deviated septum, or enlarged tonsils.  

Dental Checkups Detect Sleep Problems 

A dentist examines a patient’s teeth and oral cavity.
Dentists recommend bringing your child to the clinic around one year old or within six months of the first tooth.

You may not consider your dentist as the first person to consult about how to sleep better. But they’re the first healthcare provider to detect signs of sleep-related oral problems if you keep up with your dental appointments.  

During routine checkups, your dentist can spot signs of teeth grinding, jaw clenching, and other oral issues that may indicate a sleep disorder. To improve sleep quality in cases like sleep apnoea, dentists can fit you with oral appliances that can reposition the jaw and the airway opening. 

Your dental provider may prescribe orthodontic treatment like aligners if you have misaligned teeth due to bruxism or mouth breathing. Custom-made, invisible aligners like ClearCorrect can fix your bite, straighten teeth, and prevent uneven tooth wear. Unlike traditional braces, however, you can remove aligners when you eat or drink. 

Learn How to Sleep Better 

Your body needs restorative sleep to function at its best. Practising good sleep hygiene can help you heal better after oral surgery or other dental procedures.  Turn to these tips:

Catch eight hours of rest.

Try to get a solid eight hours of sleep every night. This magic number allows your body and mind to undergo essential restorative processes, ensuring you wake up refreshed and ready to face the day with a brighter smile.

Avoid caffeine before bedtime.

Thinking of grabbing a cup of coffee or tea after a long day? It might not be the best idea. The caffeine in these beverages can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. So, cut off your caffeine intake at least six hours before bedtime.

Establish a consistent sleep schedule.

Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including the weekends. A regular sleep schedule helps regulate your body’s internal clock and reinforces your body’s circadian rhythm.

Create a sleep-conducive environment.

Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. Invest in a quality mattress that can support your back. And don’t forget about comfortable bedding! The cosier you feel, the better your sleep will be.

Don’t let poor sleep quality put your oral health at risk. Instead, work with your dentist and primary physician to gain more knowledge on how to sleep better. And don’t forget to brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily to keep your mouth healthy and free of nasty bacteria! 

 

References: 

Alhassani, A. A., & Al-Zahrani, M. S. (2020). Is inadequate sleep a potential risk factor for periodontitis? PLOS ONE, 15(6), e0234487. 

American Dental Association. (n.d.). Teeth grinding and jaw pain. MouthHealthy.  

Asaka, Y., Sekine, M., Yamada, M., Tatsuse, T., & Sano, M. (2020). Association of short sleep duration and long media use with caries in school children. Pediatrics International, 62(2), 214–220. 

Choi, E. H., Jeon, H. S., & Mun, S. J. (2021). Association between sleep habits and symptoms of oral disease in adolescents: the 2017 Korea Youth Risk Behavior Web-based Survey. BMC Oral Health, 21(1). 

Dry mouth – Australian Dental Association. (n.d.). Teeth.org.au. 

Han, S., Jee, D., Kang, Y. C., Park, Y., & Cho, J. (2021). Possible association between oral health and sleep duration. Medicine, 100(48), e28035. 

Mummolo, S., Nota, A., Caruso, S., Quinzi, V., Marchetti, E., & Marzo, G. (2018). Salivary Markers and Microbial Flora in Mouth Breathing Late Adolescents. BioMed Research International, 2018, 1–8. 

Ogawa, M., Ogi, H., Nakamura, D., Nakamura, T., & Izawa, K. P. (2021). Association between Insufficient Sleep and Dental Caries among Preschoolers in Japan: A Cross-Sectional Multicentre Study. European Journal of Investigation in Health, Psychology and Education, 12(1), 1–10.

Robards, K. (2023). Sleep is good medicine. Sleep Education

Slowik, J. M. (2022b, December 11). Obstructive sleep apnea. StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf.

Teeth grinding – Australian Dental Association. (n.d.). Teeth.org.au. 

Troy, D. (2023, April 4). Sleep Apnea Sleep Disorder – Sleep Education by AASM. Sleep Education. 

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