More Sleep Equals Better Oral Health
Healthy sleep affects the body’s ability to fight off plaque bacteria.
A good night’s sleep is a very important component of a healthy lifestyle, offering benefits for virtually every system in the body. This includes your mouth! In fact, in one 4-year study of factory workers in Japan, researchers found that those workers who slept 7 to 8 hours per night had lower rates of periodontal disease progression than those who slept 6 hours or less.
Here are the 3 biggest ways that more sleep improves oral health.
Balanced Blood Sugar Fights Gum Disease
When you get healthy sleep, the body has an opportunity for all kinds of important healing and maintenance tasks. This includes keeping blood sugar stable, which is very important to the body’s ability to heal from infection. (This is exactly why diabetics with high blood glucose levels have been proven to have higher incidence of gum disease.) When you get a good night’s sleep, gum disease infections become easier to ward off. This in turn helps protect against the long term consequences of uncontrolled gum disease, which include tooth loss.
Reduced Stress Fights Canker Sores
Another important aspect of a good night’s sleep is the way it makes you feel—refreshed and stress-free. By reducing stress, you help to avoid stress-related oral health problems like canker sores or ulcers. These problems are also thought to be related to poor immune system function, which may be related to poor sleep. One study found that individuals who got less than 6 hours of sleep had higher levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein that is associated with increased inflammation.
Nasal Breathing Fights Drymouth
One final benefit of a good night’s sleep is that 8 hours spent breathing through your nose (as is natural for most sleepers) keeps the mouth nice and moist. This prevents the drymouth that might otherwise occur in some individuals, particularly those with diminished saliva production. Saliva is very important for washing food debris and bacteria off of teeth and creating a barrier between tooth enamel and the acids produced by bacteria.
Healthy Sleep Doesn’t Replace Good Oral Care
Of course, no amount of sleep will replace the need for proper oral care at home and at the dentist. In fact, you may actually see more dental problems (especially tooth decay) if you habitually go to bed without brushing your teeth. Be sure to schedule at least one annual visit to your dentist for a professional cleaning and exam to help keep your teeth and gums healthy.