We all know that sleep is vital to overall health, but what about oral health?
Sleep can actually have an impact on your oral health as well—either good or bad. Here’s how.
Sleep impacts saliva production.
Saliva is important for a healthy mouth, as it helps wash away food particles, neutralizes acids, and prevents the growth of bacteria in the mouth. Typically, during sleep, saliva production decreases dramatically, increasing the risk of dry mouth and other things like bad breath or tooth decay.
Still, getting adequate sleep at night helps the body produce adequate saliva during the day, so it’s definitely important to get proper sleep as regularly as possible.
Some people grind or clench their teeth in their sleep.
Teeth grinding (bruxism) or clenching during sleep can put excessive force on the teeth and jaw joints, leading to tooth wear, tooth fractures, jaw pain, and even temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). This can be particularly frustrating since a person has little to no control over teeth grinding or clenching while they sleep.
If this is a problem for you, talk to your dentist. They can provide a custom-fitted night guard to protect your teeth and alleviate stress on the jaw joints while you sleep.
Certain sleep disorders are linked to oral health problems.
Some sleeping disorders, like sleep apnea, are linked to an increased risk of gum disease. Inadequate sleep can impair your body’s immune response, making it harder to fight off oral infections.
Similarly, impaired immune response due to poor sleep can hinder your body’s restorative processes in general, which could mean slower healing of oral wounds or inflammation.
Some sleep positions make acid reflux worse.
Acid reflux (a condition where stomach acid flows back into the esophagus and mouth) can be very bad for your teeth. Certain sleep positions can make acid reflux worse, which has a direct impact on your oral health.
While poor sleep clearly has a negative impact on your oral health, getting good sleep has the opposite effect, as good sleep can:
- Encourage proper saliva production during the day
- Promote healing and immune system function
- Reduce inflammation (which is linked to gum disease)
- Help you maintain good oral health habits
With that in mind, here are some quick tips to help you get better sleep:
Reduce blue light before bedtime.
Screens give off blue light, which signals to our brains that it’s time to be awake. Try to stay off screens for a few hours before bed in order to help your eyes and your brain prepare for good sleep.
Try not to eat or drink after dinner.
Eating or drinking too late can give your body too much energy at the wrong time, keeping you up all night (or at least requiring several middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks).
Create a dark, peaceful environment.
Try to shut out all light—including lights from electronics—in your sleeping area. Add in environmental or white noise using a sound machine or fan, and try to keep the temperature low (somewhere between 60-68 degrees is ideal for sleep).
Stick to a consistent schedule.
Train your body to go to bed and wake up at certain times each day. This will help set your body’s internal clock properly, making sleep easier.
We all know the feeling of staying awake with a racing mind. Use relaxation techniques before bedtime (such as meditation or guided stretches) to help the stress of the day melt away.
Good sleep leads to good oral health. Try these tips today and see how changing your sleep can change your life!