When comparing the issue of sleep loss and dental maladies, it is important to approach it from two basic viewpoints – sleep issues can cause dental problems, and dental problems can cause sleep concerns. First, let’s take a look at how sleep loss, or lack of quality sleep, can cause dental harm.

Teeth grinding is often associated with poor sleep patterns

Humans move through five basic sleep cycles every 45 minutes to an hour. The last phase of the sleep cycle is known as the REM 4 stage. During this time the average person is at their most relaxed state, and the body is rebuilding muscle tissue, recharging cells, and basically prepping the body for the upcoming day. Those of us who don’t get enough sleep or aren’t sleeping well often miss out on the benefits of REM 4. During the other REM phases, a clenching of the jaw is often noticed. If we’re spending more time in a non-relaxed phase, teeth grinding and the resulting damage to teeth and jaws can occur. Temporomandibular disorders (TMD), as well as immediate damage to gums and teeth can occur quite often in those who don’t get quality sleep.

Jaw alignment issues may contribute to Sleep Apnea

Those of us who have established dental issues can also expect to see some interference with our sleep patterns. First, anyone with jaw alignment issues may suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. This condition is characterized by an obstructed airway that can stifle breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea can be a side effect of a jaw misalignment, such as an overbite, that interferes with the proper positioning of the tongue and airway during sleep.

Though often characterized by incessant snoring and a sense of breathlessness in the affected, sleep apnea is actually much more dangerous that it appears. Side effects of this condition include: heart disease, increased blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, heart attack, depression, and an amplification of existing mental health issues.

Guidelines for improving your sleep

Now that we’ve briefly drawn a parallel between dental health and sleep quality – and vice versa, what’s next? For those of us who aren’t currently experiencing dental issues and not getting the best quality sleep, it is important to follow a few key guidelines.

First, stay away from foods and drinks that contain caffeine or other stimulants. Second, don’t eat late and minimize fluid intakes within two hours of going to bed. Find a way to relax before bed, and minimize TV, smartphone, and other “screen intensive” interfaces before you go to sleep. Finally, keep distractions to a minimum, and really focus on getting to bed at a specific hour – your teeth will thank you!

If you are experience dental issues and are worried that it may be affecting the quality of your sleep, consult an oral surgeon or qualified dentist today. Great dental health and a good night’s sleep are two big contributors to your physical and mental well-being.