Every day at our Jacksonville, Florida dental practice we work hard to educate our patients about their oral health. We clean their teeth, fill cavities, place dental implants and other dental restorations, and teach them how they can keep their mouth healthy after they’ve gone home. One thing we don’t often mention in the office is to get more sleep, but perhaps we should because sleep may just be one of the most important aspects of oral health.
Why We Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important functions of the human body. While it may seem like we’re not being productive during these hours, our bodies are in fact restoring and repairing our cells. Our brains store information we logged throughout the day, turning short term memory into long term. Our vital functions like circulation, respiration, and digestion are slowed, giving our immune systems a much needed break to replenish and restore. Sleep is also when our bodies produce more hormones and synthesises protein which enables us to recharge and ready ourselves, at a cellular level, for another day.
Sleep is as important to the human body as water and food, but it also plays a major role in our oral health as well. Here are four ways that sleep can affect your oral health
Sleep gives our immune system a chance to recharge, which is extremely helpful for our oral health. Scientific investigations have revealed that during a normal sleep cycle production of undifferentiated naive T cells and proinflammatory cytokines increase significantly. This means that while you sleep your body creates the cells dedicated to fighting infections. These same studies also found that while you sleep your immune system is “learning” how to fight the specific infection that plagues you and sending antigen specific T-cells to the source. Because the mouth is so full of bacteria at any given time, it is important that your immune system know how to fight off any infections that take hold. Sleep is key in keeping the immune system running strong and that is why it so beneficial for oral health.
Fortifies the Teeth
Sleep is restorative for all the body’s systems and cells. While we sleep our cardiovascular system and blood vessels can be repaired from any damage sustained throughout the day. This translates into clear and strong pathways for essential nutrients, like calcium and phosphate, to make it to the bone tissue of the teeth for fortification. Sleep is essential for maintenance of every cell in our bodies no matter if they are bones or soft tissues. While we snooze, our body is hard at work repairing structures and replenishing nutrients.
Can Enable the Development of Cavities
Sadly, sleep is not always the best for your teeth either. As the body takes its well-deserved break, harmful bacteria can take advantage a vulnerable mouth. People who snore, or people who sleep with their mouths open are in particular danger of opportunistic bacteria. Saliva is one of the first lines of defense when it comes to clearing our mouths of harmful bacteria. When we sleep with our mouths open or snore, the saliva dries up. This can allow harmful bacteria to begin digesting leftover sugars without reproach. This can lead to acidification of the mouth and lead to cavities. It’s difficult to ensure you keep your mouth closed while you sleep as you are unconscious, so the best way to make sure your teeth are safe from bacteria while you sleep is to brush and floss your teeth before bed.
Aside from enabling bacteria to begin the process of tooth decay sleeping can also cause your teeth to crack and break. Thankfully this is only true for people with bruxism, or people who grind their teeth at night. The cause for bruxism is largely due to stress. While the body is unconscious the brain will sometimes cause a person to begin to grind their teeth. The person has no idea that they are grinding their teeth and can do nothing to stop this from happening. If you have bruxism you can be fit with a custom night guard to cushion the pressure on your teeth and prevent cracking and fracturing of your teeth.
Making the Most of Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important things we can give our body. It’s a time for cells to replenish and repair, and for your mouth to prepare for another day of smiling and eating. To get the best night sleep for your body and teeth make sure to brush them for two minutes and floss right before your head hits the pillow. This will remove any sugar that could cause bacteria to feast. Also, wear any appliances, like night guards, to prevent any physical harm to your teeth. If you have any questions about to protect your teeth while you sleep ask your Jacksonville, Florida dentist at your next appointment.