Guest Blog- Taking Care of Your Mouth Can Help Improve Your Sleep — Here’s How
Taking Care of Your Mouth Can Help Improve Your Sleep — Here’s How
by Paul Joe Watson Updated: December 2, 2020
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Here’s something you may not have considered before: Your dental health can impact your quality of sleep. Sure, dental health may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to getting deep, restorative sleep, but it’s certainly something worth considering. In this article, I want to explain how dental health and sleep are connected. I’ll also offer some tips from dental professionals and medical studies for maintaining healthy dental hygiene so you can sleep better.
While all of the advice and tips I’ll share won’t be for everyone, I hope you’ll get some useful information to help improve your sleep. Also, please keep in mind that we at Sleepopolis aren’t medical experts – you should always consult with your doctor for any medical advice.
The Relationship Between Dental Health and Sleep
Poor dental health can lead to issues that make it difficult to rest. According to Dr. Mona Stone of Stone Surgical Arts, folks dealing with dental issues often sleep terribly. A 2018 Japanese study in Health confirms this. The study’s researchers examined 51 participants who were age 55 or older, and they found a direct correlation between poor oral health and poor quality of sleep. (1)
Not only can dental health affect your sleep, your quality of sleep can affect your dental health. A 2016 study in Clinical Oral Investigations examined 42,539 people and found that individuals with self-reported sleep disorders were at an increased risk of gingival (gum) inflammation. (2) Max Harland of Dentaly agrees. He told me that gum inflammation can be caused by non-restorative sleep, which may cause the body to release inflammatory hormones.
While we’ll go into other dental disorders ahead, let’s first talk about what our mouths are up to when we’re asleep.
What Happens in Our Mouths When We Sleep?
One of the primary things that happens in our mouths when we sleep is that our saliva slows down, as a 2002 study in Sleep Medicine Reviews discusses. The study also notes that jaw movements, swallowing, and sleep talking can occur. (3) But is that all that happens?
To learn more, I spoke with Dr. Chris Lewandowski of Princess Center Dentistry. He says that you’re likely not to be swallowing as much when you sleep. When this happens, bacteria builds up. The end result is stinky morning breath. Keep in mind that not brushing your teeth before bedtime will make this worse.
Dental Health Issues
Let me state the obvious: Dental disorders can cause sleeping issues. While we’ve already discussed gum inflammation, let’s dig in to three other common dental disorders: sleep bruxism, jaw pain, and cavities.
To find out the specifics of why dental disorders can negatively impact sleep, I spoke to multiple dental experts. A few of these mentioned a disorder known as sleep bruxism (SB). This is when a person clenches or grinds their teeth while asleep. So what causes this? According to Dr. Kian Singh Dhinsa of Portland Dental and co-founder of the Tooth Fairy App, high stress levels is often the main culprit behind SB, alongside issues with the bite.
Dr. Henry Hackney of Authority Dental explained to me that SB can destroy tooth enamel over time. This can cause painful tooth sensitivity, which disrupts your sleep. And according to Dr. Joseph Salim of Sutton Place Dental Associates, SB can cause you to wake up often throughout the night.
Finally, a 2013 study in Oral Diseases, found that people with SB reported a 2 – 3 times higher prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea. (4) With sleep apnea, breathing stops intermittently repeated, which is, of course, bad for your sleep.
So how can you prevent the harmful effects of SB? Dr. Salim recommends speaking with your dentist about creating a night guard to prevent grinding and protect your teeth. According to Dr. Stone, in addition to a night guard, SB can be treated by behavioral therapy, stress management, physical therapy, and — in severe cases — muscle relaxants.
When I spoke with Dr. Lewandowski, he told me that jaw pain is another sleep disorder that can disrupt sleep. I should note that jaw pain is not the same as SB. While SB can cause jaw pain, it could be due to an infection. Dr. Hackneye agrees, saying that if jaw pain is a result of infection, it can spread to other areas, increasing discomfort and making it harder to sleep.
After further discussion with Dr. Hackneye, he explained that cavities can also disrupt sleep, since the resulting pain can make it difficult to get some shuteye. This assertion was confirmed by Dr. Salim, Dr. Lewandowski, and Dr. David B. Fox of Fox Dentistry. So if you’ve been doing your best to prevent cavities, you’re doing the right thing.
While acid reflux isn’t a dental condition, it can impact dental health. Dr. Salim says acid reflux can cause acid from the digestive system to enter the mouth at night. The acid’s eroding effect can result in tooth decay and/or sensitivity. If you suffer from acid reflux, he recommends using over-the-counter antacids before going to bed. He also suggests avoiding acidic foods before bedtime.
Next, I spoke with a few medical experts to find out ways to get better sleep if you have any of the other disorders.