Sleep well for a healthier smile

There’s nothing better than a good night’s sleep. Sleeping lets your body take time to rest, recharge and heal, so it’s incredibly important to your health. But did you know that includes your oral health as well?

The effects on oral health

Poor sleep can result in a number of oral health issues, including:
  • check-mark-blue

    Teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism), which can cause tooth sensitivity and headaches

  • check-mark-blue

    Disorders of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) that may result in pain and tenderness in the lower jaw

  • check-mark-blue

    Dry mouth caused by mouth breathing, which can result in cavities

  • check-mark-blue

    Increased risk of gum disease as a result of your body being less equipped to fight inflammation

Some sleep disorders like sleep apnea, where you occasionally stop breathing during sleep, can prevent you from reaching deep sleep. Regularly missing out on deep sleep is correlated with higher likelihood of developing acid reflux, heart disease and diabetes, all of disease that can hurt your oral health.

Due to the number of oral health issues caused by a sleep disorder, your dentist or dental hygienist may actually be the first to discover a problem. If your dental team notices issues associated with a sleep disorder, they’ll address any oral symptoms and then refer you to a physician for further treatment.

Your dentist may recommend you use an over-the-counter nightguard or fit you for a custom dental nightguard to manage teeth grinding and clenching. He or she may also provide treatment to repair misaligned teeth, offer guidance on alleviating dry mouth and more.

How to get a good night’s sleep

Getting the right amount of quality sleep can help your body fight diseases, while poor sleep is connected to heart disease, obesity, acid reflux, mental illness and more. The amount of time you’re asleep and reaching the deep rejuvenating stages of sleep are key. Most adults need seven to nine hours of good quality sleep every night. Children and teenagers need more, especially those 5 and younger.

Getting a good night’s rest can be hard. If you’re struggling to get to sleep or stay asleep, you may find it helpful to:
  • check-mark-blue
    Exercise any time of day, as it may help you fall asleep faster.
  • check-mark-blue
    Refrain from caffeine, alcohol and large meals later in the day.
  • check-mark-blue
    Incorporate a consistent bedtime routine, including retiring the same time every night.
  • check-mark-blue
    Keep a comfortable room temperature (usually a few degrees lower than during the day) in your bedroom.
  • check-mark-blue
    Avoid blue and bright lights before bedtime and use blackout curtains to block ambient light from outside.
  • check-mark-blue
    Make sure your mattress, pillows and sheets are comfortable.
  • check-mark-blue
    Stop using TVs, computers, tablets and smartphones in your bedroom.

What not to do:

Some websites recommend taping your mouth shut when sleeping to force nose breathing, claiming it helps prevent dry mouth and snoring. The research on this is limited, so don’t attempt this treatment without consulting your physician or dentist.

Here’s another way you can potentially get a better night’s sleep. Find your sleep position to see how simple changes may help make you more comfortable at bedtime.


Position: On your side with arms down close to your body

Advantage: May address sleep apnea

Try this: Place a pillow or blanket between your knees to reduce pressure on your hips.


Position: Flat on your back with your arms at the side

Advantage: Can help with acid reflux

Try this: Put a pillow under your knees to reduce back pain. If you snore, sleep on your side instead.


Position: Curled up on your side

Advantage: Can help address snoring

Try this: Stretch out a little for easier breathing.


Position: On your back, legs spread with arms up

Advantage: Can help with acid reflux

Try this: Put a pillow under your knees and choose a firm mattress to avoid back pain.

Almost half of Americans report feeling sleepy during the day for more than three days out of every week. And as many as 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy and restless leg syndrome. If you’re among those struggling with sleep, consider seeing your physician to discuss options so you can stay well-rested, healthy and smiling.