When considering oral health, you probably think about brushing and flossing your teeth regularly and visiting the dentist for check-ups and hygiene appointments. While these are important, other lifestyle factors, including sleep quality, can affect your oral health.
The quality of your sleep may be the last thing you have thought about when it comes to oral health, but getting a good night’s sleep ensures your body can rest and repair vital functions and helps reduce stress levels, helping protect your heart health. Poor quality sleep can increase the risk of developing chronic diseases, including those affecting your oral health. Below are just some of the ways sleep is linked to your oral health.
A Healthy Immune System Helps Fight Infection
A healthy immune system is essential for fighting infection and illness, including those caused by harmful bacteria in the mouth. When you have good quality sleep, your immune system produces proteins called cytokines that help fight infection. If you sleep poorly, your immune system is weakened, making it harder for your body to fight infections such as gum disease and tooth decay.
Many people have a condition called obstructive sleep apnoea, where they have poor quality sleep and which is characterised by loud snoring where sufferers breathe through the mouth. It is caused when the throat muscles holding open the airway relax during sleep, allowing it to collapse inwards. As a result, the airway becomes partially blocked, and breathing ceases for several seconds. Sleep apnoea can affect sleep quality, negatively impacting the immune system, so it is less able to fight infection and disease. Sufferers are often unaware they have sleep apnoea unless a sleeping partner alerts them to their loud snoring, but they can wake up feeling ill-rested and continually tired.
Sleeping with your mouth open causes a condition called dry mouth or xerostomia. When the mouth becomes dry, it is more prone to infection and disease as saliva is a protective fluid that helps to keep your mouth clean and fresh. The risk of developing diseases like gum disease and tooth decay is higher when your mouth is drier.
Teeth grinding and clenching is a condition called bruxism and tends to be a nocturnal habit. It can be associated with sleep apnoea and causes considerable damage to dental health. People with bruxism can wear their teeth down to little more than stubs, and it can cause gum recession and problems with their jaw joints.
Ensuring You Get Good Quality Sleep Maintain Good Oral Health
Try to stop using phones, tablets or other technologies that emit blue light before you go to bed, and follow a regular routine at night to get eight hours minimum. Ensure your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature and 18°C is thought to be ideal, and that it is a welcoming, relaxing environment that is sufficiently dark to go to sleep easily. Immediately before you go to bed, make sure you brush and floss your teeth thoroughly and avoid snacking. It can be helpful to keep a glass of water beside your bed so that if you wake up, you can take a sip and moisten your mouth.