Sleep is a vital function for our bodies—it not only helps our brains process memories and repair tissues, but it helps strengthen our immune systems and allows us to wake up restored the next day. Lack of sleep has been linked to a variety of chronic health problems, and even an increased risk for death .
But how exactly does your sleep schedule impact your dental health? Here’s what you need to know when it comes to getting proper sleep and your tooth and gum health!
Lack of Sleep Could Increase Your Risk for Gum Disease
Sleep deprivation can affect your risk for gum disease and even influence the severity of gum disease . Researchers suspect the link here is inflammation—when the body doesn’t get enough sleep, it tends to produce more inflammatory hormones.
Inflammation is a key component in gum disease, as it can cause the gums to swell and become irritated, usually as the result of bacteria that’s accumulated around the gumline. However, lack of sleep can cause gum disease to become worse—and cause the need for more advanced treatment to reverse the condition.
Sleep Keeps the Immune System Strong
Your immune system plays an important role in fighting off potential oral infections such as gum disease and even oral thrush. Fortunately, sleep helps keep the immune system strong to be able to defend the body against such infections .
When you don’t get enough sleep, whether due to an irregular sleep schedule or a hectic lifestyle, you effectively lower your immunity and make your oral cavity more susceptible to problems.
Disrupted or Poor Sleep Can Impact Oral Health
People who experience disrupted sleep are at an increased risk to experience poor oral health, according to research . A prime example of this is people who snore or have sleep apnea—their mouth breathing and consistently interrupted sleep makes proper rest impossible, leading to lower immunity and a higher risk for oral health problems.
Mouth breathing such as that seen in sleep apnea or in people who snore can also dry out the oral cavity and lead to an increased risk for cavities. Fortunately, seeking treatment for sleep apnea can help lower your risk!
How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Consistency is important when it comes to sleep—while everyone is different, a good general rule is to get a minimum of seven hours every night. Ideally, you should wake up and go to bed at the same time to maintain your schedule.
If you have trouble sleeping, reducing your caffeine and sugar intake at least two hours before bed, avoiding bright lights (especially blue light emitted from electronic devices), and sleeping in a cool, dark room may help improve your sleep quality. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for more than just your body—your teeth and gums will thank you as well!