What is the link between sleep disorders and oral health?

October 24, 2019

Everybody experiences a poor night’s sleep now and then, along with the bad mood, fatigue and a lack of focus that follow the next day. If this only occurs occasionally, it will not have a major impact on your health in the long term. However, structural sleeping problems can seriously impair your health and general wellbeing. Not only does it increase the risk of accidents on, for example, the road due to tiredness. Several serious medical conditions are associated with reduced sleep and poor sleeping quality as well, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and mental problems, for instance, anxiety or depression. It is now suggested that poor sleep is also related to several oral health problems.

What does ‘poor sleep’ mean?

But how do we define poor sleep? It’s not only a matter of insufficient sleep duration. Sleep quality is also very important. This is determined by aspects such as the ability to fall asleep, stay asleep throughout the night without waking up too often, and fall back asleep quickly in case you do wake up. There are several factors influencing sleep duration and sleep quality, and one of them is our oral health.

An example is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which happens when the muscles in your throat relax during sleep. As a result, the soft palate, normally supported by these muscles, can obstruct the airways. This then causes a shortage of breath and a lack of oxygen in your blood. When your brain senses this, it tries to reopen your airways by waking you up for such a brief moment you might not even notice or remember it. It does, however, prevent you from reaching the deeper phases of sleep that determine your sleep quality.

Another example of how oral health can affect your sleep is oral dryness. Oral dryness can have many causes, for example, mouth breathing or diseases such as diabetes mellitus and Sjögren syndrome. It is not uncommon for people to wake up multiple times per night from the unpleasant feeling of a dry mouth. Sometimes, having a drink can relieve the complaints, but in severe cases, this does not help. A disrupted sleeping pattern is the result. Longer lasting solutions, such as SUNSTAR’s GUM® Hydral® product line, could help patients with a dry mouth to sleep better.

Teeth grinding is also reported to disturb sleep, besides directly impacting your teeth and quality of life. The tension of the jaws expands to other parts of the body such as the head or the back, causing continuous headaches and stiffed shoulders. Learning how to relax your jaws, wearing a mouthguard or trying innovative devices that help you control the grinding are some of the solutions to this issue affecting over 30% of adults worldwide.

A holistic approach to ensure total well-being

As we explained before, suffering from poor sleep can have a major impact on your general health and well-being. Since sleep is also intertwined with oral health, medical and dental professionals should work together closely. Because of the regular visits and close patient contact, the dental office could be the ideal setting to identify sleeping problems in an early stage. On the other hand, medical professionals should seek the advice of dental professionals if they suspect that the poor sleep of a patient has an underlying oral health-related cause. As is often the case, a patient with sleeping problems could benefit the most from a holistic approach.

Sunstar fosters healthy lifestyle habits for oral and whole-body care, and for healthier living spaces helping our customers live longer, healthier lives.