Sleep is essential to so many functions in your body. It helps balance hormones, supports memory processing in the brain, and repairs tissues. Without enough sleep, the immune system can’t function properly, and even brain functions such as problem solving and memory are impaired. But did you know that sleep affects your dental health as well? Poor sleep and mouth breathing while asleep affect the oral cavity more than you might think!
Poor Sleep Can Show Up in the Oral Cavity
Dentists are often the first professionals to notice a potential sleep problem by seeing signs of poor sleep in the oral cavity, such as a poor bite, significant plaque, dry mouth, excessive saliva, and open mouth posture .
All of these signs could point to a potential sleep disorder. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea are often associated with open-mouth breathing during sleep, which can dry out the oral cavity and lead to plaque overgrowth. More plaque means increased risk for tooth decay and gum disease, and dry mouth can increase acidity of the oral cavity, which can cause enamel damage. Your dentist may refer you to a sleep specialist if they suspect you suffer from a sleep disorder that could be impacting your oral health as well as your daily life.
You May Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder that is associated with mouth breathing and can lead to dry mouth . OSA is also associated with symptoms that can dramatically impact your health and quality of life, such as extreme daytime fatigue, high blood pressure, and even heart disease.
OSA also prevents you from getting a good night’s sleep, as patients with OSA consistently stop breathing and wake themselves up during the night with OSA. Without proper sleep, you’re more prone to inflammation, which can increase your risk for gum disease.
Teeth Grinding Is Also Associated With Poor Sleep
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, has also been associated with poor sleep . The relationship between sleep disorders and bruxism is complex, but they can influence each other. Poor sleep can lead to increased anxiety and stress, which can increase your risk for bruxism. Meanwhile, bruxism can also cause other issues in the body, such as headaches, which can disrupt sleep.
People who have bruxism also commonly have a sleep disorder. Patients with OSA are more likely to grind their teeth . Addressing bruxism is essential to protecting your smile, as it can lead to gum inflammation and teeth fractures.
Your Dentist Can Help
Sleep is imperative for your body and your dental health, meaning poor sleep quality, including lack of sleep, can impact your oral health. Fortunately, your dentist can help. If your dentist notices signs that you may not be sleeping like you should, they can help you seek treatment and restore your quality of life!