Sleep Deprivation Has Some Pretty Grim Consequences For Your Teeth

Another reason to make sure you get enough sleep tonight.
Edwin Tan via Getty Images

Losing a tooth is something we would all rather avoid, which is why we try to do everything the dentist instructs us: we brush our teeth twice a day, floss at night and use mouthwash.

But there’s something else that can affect the health of your teeth that has nothing to do with your mouth: sleep. Yes, really.

Sleep deprivation has so many effects, from high blood pressure to anxiety, but it could be damaging your oral health too.

Dr Khaled Kasem, chief orthodontist at Impress, has revealed the common dental issues caused by sleep deprivation including tooth grinding, bad breath, bleeding gums and gum infections, tooth decay, and even – in extreme cases – tooth loss.

Here’s what you need to know.

Inflammation of the gums

“One of the most common dental issues caused by sleep deprivation is inflammation of the gums, otherwise known as gingivitis, and this is caused by the additional inflammatory hormones produced by the body when it isn’t getting enough sleep,” Kasem says.

If your gums are bleeding this could be the first sign of gum inflammation. If you notice this happening, seek advice from a medical professional.

“Gingivitis can lead to more serious dental problems such as periodontitis, the development of pockets between your gums and teeth, and eventually tooth loss,” he says.

The dental expert urges people with aligners to keep an even closer eye on gum health as any bacteria trapped inside them “will sit against the teeth and multiply, causing even more problems”.

Grinding teeth

Bruxism (aka clenching/grinding your teeth) is usually linked to stress and anxiety. But it is also common among those suffering from sleep deprivation and it can seriously impact the health of your mouth.

“Mild cases might not require treatment, but those who frequently clench and apply too much stress to their teeth could develop severe jaw disorders, headaches and migraines, flattened/fractured teeth, increased tooth sensitivity, and even tooth loss,” Karem explains.

“It can also lead to premature wear on aligners, so be sure to let your orthodontist know if this is something you struggle with.”

Bad breath (halitosis)

Lack of sleep reduces the production of saliva in the mouth, according to Karem. Not ideal when saliva is required to keep our mouths clean by reducing the amount of bacteria.

“If this is in limited supply and our mouths become dry, the bacteria will build and our breath will smell,” he adds.

Weakened immune system

You might be wondering what this has to do with teeth. But listen up: there is mounting evidence that sleep deprivation can impact the immune system – and ultimately this can impact our teeth.

“The primary function of our immune system is to help defend the body against infections, and it is vital in maintaining the overall health of the body,” Karem says.

“Not only that, but a strong immune system contributes to healthy teeth and gums, and a lack of sleep will weaken the immune system and its ability to protect the mouth against common infections.”