May marks Better Sleep Month, dedicated by the Better Sleep Council to raise awareness about the benefits of a full night's rest. Healthy sleep benefits are undeniable—from improved concentration and productivity to boosted immune function and decreased inflammation, risk of type 2 diabetes, and risk of heart disease. It may sound strange, but your oral health and sleep are connected! Read on to find out how to take care of your teeth at night and why your teeth can impact your ability to sleep soundly.
What happens in your mouth during sleep
While you sleep at night, your whole body experiences many benefits, like hormone regulation and cellular repair. However, there are several potentially cavity-causing processes that occur in your mouth. While you sleep, bacteria multiply while saliva production, which usually washes away bacteria, slows. This is responsible for the nasty taste in your mouth you might have in the morning (and morning breath, too)! Over many nights, bacteria can eat away at your enamel if you don't properly care for your smile.
To avoid the buildup of bacteria, make sure to brush and floss before you go to bed and after you wake up. Brushing before you go to sleep helps clear away the bacteria that accumulated during the day and any bits of food that could sit on the teeth and cause damage. Brushing your teeth in the morning helps to reduce the plaque-causing bacteria that multiplied in your mouth overnight. It's always best to begin your sleep—and begin your day—with a clean slate and healthy mouth!
How to banish nighttime bruxism
Another common issue is bruxism (also known as teeth grinding). Sleep bruxism is a response to airway collapse or resistance, though other factors, like serotonin inhibitor medications, can cause or worsen these issues. When you have a restricted airway, patients may clench their teeth while asleep in an attempt to open the airway. Over time, this habit causes enamel wear, increased tooth sensitivity, headaches, soreness, and other unpleasant symptoms. Sleep bruxism is often co-occurring with GERD, a condition where stomach acid can make its way to your mouth through your esophagus. With decreased saliva at night and increased tooth friction from bruxism, tooth erosion can be even worse.
To protect teeth and alleviate these painful symptoms, patients may wear a nighttime mouthguard that protects teeth while clenching or grinding. However, to treat the root cause of bruxism, our team will assess your airway and develop a plan for healthy sleep, open airways, and better breathing.
Treating sleep airway problems
A patient may experience airway obstruction if they cannot breathe properly due to issues like misalignment, mouth posture, anatomy, or tongue positioning. While you may think that snoring is a normal part of sleep, it signals an underlying breathing disorder or airway issue. Not only do airway problems cause irregular, insufficient sleep, but some, like sleep apnea, can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, memory loss, and high blood pressure.
If you have bruxism, snore, mouth breathe, often wake up with a dry mouth (sleep apnea occurs mostly with an open mouth), have morning headaches, or experience difficulty staying awake during the day, you may be suffering from sleep apnea or an airway problem. At every visit, we check your airway and discuss your sleep breathing. Dr. Bowen and Dr. Gehlert can custom fit you for oral sleep appliances to help control and maintain your airway at night. These position your jaw forward and open your airway for healthy breathing and sleep. We can also discuss your best options to resolve your airway collapse and expand your airway.
For better sleep, see us!
Sleeping is the body's chance to reset and recharge, so make sure you're giving it the opportunity to do that! Make sure to brush before bed and in the morning, and ask our team about a sleep breathing evaluation if you think you are experiencing bruxism, snoring, or have daytime sleepiness. Call us at 614-459-2300 with any questions or to schedule your next appointment.