Lack of Sleep Can Contribute to Gum Disease

May 20, 2015, by Dr. Becky Coats

Sleep is an essential part of your life. Getting enough sleep encourages health and happiness. This is even true for oral health, since some studies have shown that not getting enough sleep is associated with an increased risk of gum disease, whether it’s just Candy Crush that’s keeping you up at night or if you are suffering from sleep apnea or another sleep disorder.

An Unexplained Association

Gum disease and sleep hoursSeveral scientific studies have linked poor sleep and poor gum health. After smoking, poor sleep was found to be the most significant predictor of whether a person would have poor gum health. It was almost as significant in its effect, which is pretty serious because smokers have, on average, two fewer teeth than non-smokers and are five times more likely to lose all their teeth.

The connection between poor sleep and poor oral health was further confirmed by looking at sleep disorders. A 2013 study showed that diabetic patients were more likely to suffer serious gum disease if they also had sleep apnea. A 2014 study then looked at other sleep disorders and found that they, too, could result in increased gum disease risk.

Unfortunately, none of these studies have really explained the connection. There are many possibilities.

A Weakened Immune System

Not getting enough sleep can dramatically weaken your immune system. In particular, levels of killer T cells drop dramatically. The cells work to protect the body from invaders like oral bacteria.

Poor Oral Care

Another possible risk of not getting enough sleep is that you might not be doing your full oral care routine. When you’re tired and facing the choice about whether to brush and floss or go to bed, you might choose skipping toothbrushing in favor of bed too often.

Caffeinating Through the Day

The modern workplace runs on caffeine, especially for people who aren’t getting enough sleep. If you are chronically sleep deprived, you might be consuming caffeine more regularly and in different forms.

Having a cup of coffee or tea in the morning isn’t really bad for your teeth. Tea, in particular, can help protect your teeth, and adding milk can reduce staining. But sleep apnea has been associated with increased consumption of coke in the afternoon. Coke and the energy drinks people also choose to help them boost through a day on little sleep aren’t just full of sugar that feeds oral bacteria. They are also highly acidic, which can damage teeth and gums.

How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

When you are considering the important role sleep plays in maintaining your oral health, you have to make sure that you’re getting the right amount for you. Sleep recommendations have recently been revised, and it’s important to understand that the amount of sleep you need may be more or less than the standard 8 hours.

If you want to talk to a Grapevine dentist about maintaining your oral health or need to schedule a regular checkup and cleaning, please call (817) 481-6888 for an appointment at Grapevine Dental Care.