The far-reaching impact of sleep on oral health
SUMMARY: Getting a good night's sleep can tackle the worst problems of oral hygiene, including gum disease and dry mouth.
Posted: October 14, 2013
Sleep is the golden ticket for a healthy body. Beyond increasing memory, enhancing metabolic rates and boosting daily performance, getting a good night's sleep also plays a key role in our oral health. Namely, it wards off the progression of periodontal disease and impacts bad breath, canker sores and dry mouth. Though it seems too simple to be true, a refreshing eight-hour night of sleep may be exactly what you need to get you back on your feet.
In a study led by Muneo Tanaka?, DDS, and colleagues at Osaka University Graduate School of Dentistry, dentists examined 219 factory workers for a span of four years to trace the connection between gum disease and certain lifestyle variables. The factors included physical exercise, hours of sleep, hours of work, alcohol use, tobacco use, eating breakfast and mental stress.
Among the results, sleep was ranked as the second-highest factor influencing periodontal disease after smoking. Workers who had seven to eight hours hours of sleep per night indicated less periodontal progression than those who received six or fewer hours of sleep per night.
"This study points out to patients that there are lifestyle factors other than brushing and flossing that may affect their oral health," noted Preston D. Miller Jr., DDS, president of the American Academy of Periodontology. "It is also important to keep these in mind as the body of evidence linking oral disease with systemic diseases continues to grow, because ultimately these factors might impact a patient's overall health."
Essentially, when you sleep, your body spends time on self-maintenance. It helps heal and repair your heart and blood vessels, supports healthy growth, keeps your blood sugar levels stable and bolsters your immune system - all of which are interconnected and play a part in promoting a healthy mouth. Here's how:
Although scientists are still hammering out the exact correlation between heart and mouth problems, it is understood that bacteria build-up on the gums and teeth enters the bloodstream, where it leads to clots and inflammatory responses.
As for blood sugar levels, diabetes and gum disease have been tied together through high blood glucose, which weaken your gums, leaving room for infection and a germ-filled mouth.
Another upside of a good night's sleep is that feeling well-rested reduces stress, a culprit of bad breath and canker sores. When we start to feel overwhelmed, our immune system has a harder time fighting off bacteria in the mouth. This can lead to stinky plaque and those little annoying ulcers.
In addition, breathing through your nose while sleeping can reduce dry mouth. Also known as xerostomia, dry mouth is caused by diminished saliva production. It affects roughly 10 percent of people and is more common in women than men. Most often, it occurs in the elderly who are taking prescription and over-the-counter medications. If you spend a whole night blowing in and out of your mouth, the air dehydrates your gums and tissues. On top of this, the drying effects are multiplied with the lack of saliva production that occurs naturally during sleep. Prevent dry mouth in the morning by simply breathing through your nose from now on!
The bottom line: Not only do brushing and flossing habits before bedtime have sway in your oral health, but your actual bedtime affects your gums and teeth as well. Make sure both you and your family members strive for regular sleeping habits, which can lead to a happier, more productive day and will keep you smiling. Who knew catching some zzz's could be so rewarding?